The Chair (Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP)):
I now call this 67th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to order.
Welcome, colleagues, to our hearing, and also welcome to our guests today.
First of all, welcome back to Mr. Byrne. You've been off on some personal matters. It's good to have you back, sir. Mr. Allison is joining us today, subbing in. We hope you have an enjoyable time with us today.
With that, we'll get under way. We're holding a public hearing on chapter 5, Oversight of Civil Aviation—Transport Canada, of the Spring 2012 Report of the Auditor General of Canada.
Of course, Mr. Ferguson is here today. I will welcome him and invite him to introduce his delegation. Then we'll go to Madam Biguzs, who is the associate deputy minister. I would ask her, when Mr. Ferguson has concluded, to introduce her delegation and then give us her opening remarks.
Colleagues, if there are no interventions, I will proceed with the hearing.
Seeing none, I pass the floor to you, Mr. Ferguson.
Mr. Michael Ferguson (Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada):
Mr. Chair, thank you for this opportunity to discuss chapter 5 of our spring 2012 report, “Oversight of Civil Aviation-Transport Canada”.
Joining me at the table are Maurice Laplante, Assistant Auditor General, and Lucie Talbot, Director, who were responsible for the audit.
The overall responsibility for aviation safety rests with the aviation industry. Transport Canada is responsible for developing and administering the policies, regulations and standards required for the safe conduct of civil aviation within Canada's borders. It is also responsible for overseeing whether aviation companies have complied with this safety framework.
We examined whether the department had risks associated with overseeing its civil aviation safety program. We focused on Transport Canada's surveillance of air carriers, aircraft maintenance organizations, and airports in the national airports system.
Transport Canada has made progress in adapting its regulatory framework to one based on safety management systems. It has moved to an approach that puts the onus on aviation companies to develop safety management systems in accordance with regulations. The goal of this approach is to allow for more consistent and rigorous surveillance of aviation companies' compliance with safety regulations.
While Transport Canada has implemented a regulatory framework that is consistent with international requirements, we found that in some cases it was taking a long time to address some emerging safety issues.
We found that some aspects of surveillance are working well. For example, the department has developed a standardized methodology to enable consistent inspections of companies' compliance with regulations across Canada.
This surveillance approach is consistent with the safety management system-based approach in the aviation industry, and inspections are carried out under the department's instructions. However, we found weaknesses in critical areas in how Transport Canada plans and conducts its surveillance activities.
We found that risk-based planning lacks rigour. The information for assessing risks used by Transport Canada to identify the high-risk aviation companies that should be inspected is not always available or kept up to date.
In addition, a minimum acceptable level of surveillance has not been clearly established to provide the necessary coverage of civil aviation companies.
In 2010-11, only about two-thirds of planned inspections were completed. That is significant, considering that only the companies and the operational areas with higher risks are to be selected for inspection in any given year.
Most inspections did not fully comply with the established methodology and were subject to little management oversight.
We found that inspection plans were prepared for 35% of the files we reviewed. In these plans, we found little information on the key tests necessary to ensure that the inspection would focus on the greatest risks. We also found that sampling plans were rarely prepared. Because there are no minimum requirements for documentation of work done and reporting of inspection results, the quality of the documentation varied significantly among inspectors and across regions.
We found that many inspections were carried out in 2010-11 by inspectors who had not received training on the new surveillance methodology. Completing training on time is important to help inspectors understand and apply the new surveillance methods. Otherwise, the department will not have the assurance it needs that aviation companies are complying with air safety regulations.
At the end of our audit, we found that about 65% of inspectors had completed the training on surveillance procedures.
Transport Canada has developed a national human resources plan for the oversight of civil aviation. However, the plan does not specify the number of inspectors and engineers that are needed, although the department agreed to provide these figures in its response to the recommendation in our 2008 report.
We found, as well, that Transport Canada lacks a quality assurance program to continuously improve its surveillance program. An effective quality assurance program for evaluating Transport Canada's surveillance activities would help management determine whether established methodologies are being followed.
Transport Canada plays a key role in helping to ensure that Canada's civil aviation safety framework meets minimum international safety standards. While Canada's safety record compares favourably with many other countries, any deterioration would have a significant impact on public confidence. This makes it critical that Transport Canada maintain a solid and effective regulatory framework for civil aviation safety, especially since the International Civil Aviation Organization has projected a significant growth in aviation until 2025.
The department's senior management needs to concentrate its efforts on ensuring that staff apply the approved methodology consistently and rigorously, that managers provide the necessary reviews and supervision, and that an effective continuous improvement program is put in place. Otherwise, Transport Canada will not have the assurance that the industry is operating in compliance with the regulatory framework for civil aviation in Canada.
Mr. Chair, we are pleased to report that Transport Canada agreed with our recommendations and expressed its commitment to implement them no later than April 2013.
In April 2012, Transport Canada shared its detailed action plan with us, and it appears to be sufficient if implemented. The committee may wish to review the department's action plan and explore the progress made to date to address the issues raised in this chapter.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions that the committee may have.
Ms. Anita Biguzs (Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Transport):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on the Auditor General's 2012 review of the civil aviation program. With me today are two of my colleagues: Gerard McDonald, assistant deputy minister of safety and security, and Martin Eley, director general of civil aviation.
We take the Auditor General's report very seriously, as we did the 2008 report on the civil aviation safety program. Changing a surveillance program as significant as the civil aviation program is neither a quick nor an easy fix, and we've had to be strategic in how we prioritize our activities.
Following the 2008 report, we initiated measures to strengthen the civil aviation safety program, and we are continuing to build on those actions. Our efforts to strengthen the program led to producing “Improving Canada's Civil Aviation Safety Program: An Action Plan to April 2013”, which positions us to implement the Auditor General's recommendations by the end of 2013, in addition to other priority areas we had identified.
The plan was provided to the Auditor General's Office, and a copy has been provided to committee members. In two weeks, the department will provide the committee with an update on the implementation of the action plan.
Putting the action plan to work has been a departmental priority this year, with focused attention from me and the deputy minister at the most senior levels of the department as well as from the departmental audit committee. I am confident that the progress we have made has strengthened the civil aviation safety program.
Mr. McDonald will now explain the status and the direction of the program.
Mr. Gerard McDonald (Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport):
Thank you, Ms. Biguzs and members of the committee.
The civil aviation safety program has always focused on addressing the highest-risk areas of the sector, and we feel it has succeeded in improving aviation safety. In fact, in 2011 Canada recorded the lowest number of accidents for Canadian-registered aircraft since 1976. Statistics such as these reinforce the fact that Canada has one of the safest aviation systems in the world.
That said, there is always room for improvement, and the Auditor General's report provides us with valuable recommendations on how to strengthen the risk-based approach that we use.
Transport Canada is working to move away from a “one size fits all” approach, and to make its rulemaking process more responsive to safety priorities, while engaging the right people at the right time on the right issues.
By March 2013, the department will have a new process in place that will accelerate follow-up on significant safety issues raised by stakeholders.
The Auditor General recommended that Transport Canada conduct inspections according to established methodology and that staff receive all necessary training. I'm happy to report that we have reviewed and updated our surveillance procedure documentation, and we are now in the process of focus-testing these changes with our inspectorate to ensure it meets their needs.
A centralized surveillance information management system will be ready in December, along with associated user training to be completed by March 2013.
All inspectors have been trained to exercise their delegated authority as set out in the department's civil aviation training policy, and they have all completed updated training on new surveillance procedures. A needs analysis is taking place to determine if additional speciality training is required.
The Auditor General also recommended that Transport Canada clarify the information on aviation organizations used in developing risk profiles and surveillance plans. Civil aviation has introduced new tools, such as a risk indicator tool and accompanying employee training, which was launched in April 2012 and now provides a standardized approach to developing risk profiles.
We also have a surveillance planning tool that reflects a move from fixed surveillance frequencies to new risk-based surveillance intervals. Under the new approach, the frequency of planned inspections increases as risk increases. Combined with a five-year planning horizon, this allows resources to be allocated to the highest-priority enterprises while ensuring that all enterprises have a planned inspection schedule. The new planning tool is being piloted now, and the first full year it will be used is 2013-14.
Subsequent to the release of our action plan, civil aviation has focused in more depth on enforcement activities and has identified additional actions to strengthen this aspect of the program.
There is regular monitoring of overall surveillance activity at the national level. The national management team of the Civil Aviation Program reviews activity monthly to determine whether planned activities are being carried out and whether adjustments need to be made.
In his report, the Auditor General called for an internal quality assurance program. Now that work has advanced on key program areas, Transport Canada has developed quality assurance procedures and has prepared a comprehensive quality assurance plan, and implementation of the plan has started. This will ensure that our procedures are consistently followed and continuously improved.
Transport Canada has always ensured that civil aviation has an appropriate number of inspectors. Even during a time of overall public service downsizing, we are continuing to recruit inspectors to maintain the strength of our workforce. The Auditor General recommended that we identify the resources we will need to plan and conduct inspections under our new surveillance approach and develop a strategy to obtain them.
All this presents the obvious question: do we have an appropriate number of inspectors to fulfill our mandate? Knowing whether we have the right number of resources means knowing whether our resources are being allocated effectively and our surveillance activities are being carried out efficiently.
Given our understanding of the risk in the system, I believe we do have an adequate number of resources. To confirm this, we're using a more robust method to determine how to best apply resources in conducting surveillance activities. We're improving our understanding of whether the time we spend conducting individual inspections is appropriate and we are assessing whether we are assuming acceptable levels of risk.extra text box
In particular, the new approach to surveillance planning allows us to forecast the resources needed to meet unplanned surveillance activities, as well as to allow for planned surveillance needs, up to five years into the future.
We recognize that we need to continue to improve our program, which is why Transport Canada's civil aviation action plan to 2013 was developed and is now being implemented. The Auditor General's report confirmed that the issues we had identified and the actions we had begun taking were the right ones. We are confident that in the coming years our actions can fully respond to the Auditor General's recommendation and contribute to Transport Canada's strong risk-based aviation safety program. This will ensure that our aviation safety record continues to be one that Canadians can be proud of and have confidence in.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. We would be happy to answer any questions that you might have in this regard.
Ms. Anita Biguzs:
I'm going to open and then turn the floor over to my colleagues.
Just to give you a sense of how seriously we have taken this, we have a very rigorous process. We have a steering committee that meets virtually every two weeks, which I chair. We go through the action plan, which has identified a whole series of measures.
For example, in the surveillance area, we are moving to a risk-based approach. We've put in place minimum surveillance plans. We're improving our documentation, our guidance documents for inspectors. We've been on a cross-country regional outreach with our inspectors to make sure we get feedback from them in terms of being able to ensure that the guidance we prepare reflects their needs as we move to new approaches in how we do things.
As I say, we have a very rigorous process and are tracking timelines very carefully to make sure we're delivering.
I'll turn to my colleagues to walk you through the various initiatives we have identified in the plan.
Mr. Gerard McDonald:
As Ms. Biguzs indicated, the plan is fairly comprehensive and comprises some 61 different management commitments we've made to improve the program.
Just briefly, here are some of the things we've done. We developed a new risk indicator tool to allow us to assess companies and the risk they pose to the system. We've refined and developed a national surveillance program that we're regularly monitoring to make sure our surveillance plans are keeping up to date and that we're not falling behind at all.
We've done renewed training for our inspectorate on the new surveillance procedures, so now they have all received that training. It's very important that we engage our employees, so we have a communication and engagement strategy with our employees to make sure they understand the program, how it works, and what we're trying to develop. We've updated the documentation for surveillance.
We've looked at our consultation model. We've been criticized for taking too long to implement regulations, so we're looking at the consultation model we use and how we can fast-track regulations when there are true safety issues. We've completed assessments of airports that had been lagging behind. We've provided additional guidance on surveillance and enforcement.
Also, one of the bigger issues is the reorganization of the entire directorate, which had been going on for quite a number of years. We are fast approaching completion of what turned out to be probably the biggest reorganization our department has ever had to face.
Mr. Daryl Kramp:
I have another question, but before I get to it, let me take this opportunity to commend Transport Canada. That's rare from this committee, frankly, because we generally deal with problems and situations, and it's unusual for a department to be absolutely proactive in dealing with a problem, not only during an audit but before, and having a handle on the whole situation. Quite frankly, it gives me, as a member of this committee, a bit more confidence that we're going to see an action plan that will have deliverables that will be recognized, and in a timely manner, so I thank you for your work on the file. It is reassuring not only to this committee but to the travelling public.
I'll come back to the Auditor General. You've obviously done a pretty intensive SWOT analysis on this. It's great if we can build on the strengths and then make recommendations for our weaknesses.
If you were to pick out a couple of strengths that we can build upon—whether the process that Transport is undergoing now or other things—what are we doing correctly that we can build upon?
If there is a major, glaring weakness, what should we be addressing as an immediate concern?
Mr. Gerard McDonald:
I'm sorry; I can't locate the number you have quoted in the report, but what I suspect you're doing is using two different numbers: one is the number of inspector positions we have, and the other number is the actual number of inspectors on staff.
We still have the same number of positions, but as with any organization that large, there is a regular turnover of employees—people retiring, people moving on to other jobs, and what have you. The total number of positions is never fully filled, because as soon as you fill one, someone else may retire or move on.
Our occupancy rate is somewhere in the high 80% range right now, and we're doing everything we can to bring us to full staffing, but the number of positions at Transport Canada has not changed. We continue to have 881 inspectors in our A-base.
Mr. Bev Shipley (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, CPC):
Thank you very much.
I'd like a quick clarification, just to help.
In the Auditor General's report, Mr. AG, in April 2012, you said Transport Canada shared its detailed action plan with you and that it seems to be in place. Transport Canada's response says they are hoping to be positioned “to implement the Auditor General's recommendations by the end of 2013”. The Auditor General's report says there's a commitment to implement them no later than April 2013.
I think there are two components to this. Maybe you can help us understand a little bit why we have April 2013 and then “by the end of 2013”.
I'll go first to the Auditor General and your report. This is in paragraph 15, Mr. Auditor General. Then in the Transport Canada response, it's on page 2, where it says they hope to implement the Auditor General's recommendations by the end of 2013.
Mr. Bev Shipley:
Just so the public will clearly understand, we've had the 2008 report and we have the one that we're looking at right now, but in terms of Canada's safety in aviation, we recorded the lowest number of accidents in modern aviation history.
I want to make certain as we get into a time when people are going to be travelling a lot that we know that Canada's system, if you are going to fly in Canada, is one of the safest, if not the safest, in the world. We can always have improvements, and we're now asking for a response; both have said they will come back and talk about where they are at and how they are going to get to the end fairly quickly, because there has been a fair bit of work done since the report was actually commissioned.
I think what we're trying to do here is to make sure, as aviation continues to grow, that it is a safe way in Canada to travel. How do we know that we are actually going to be able to keep up? This goes to Transport Canada: how do we make sure that we keep up with that growth that we see in aviation, not only with the planes but also with the monitoring of the airports?
Can you give confidence to us that you are going to be able to meet the requirements they have with the number of inspectors and what those inspectors are required to do at the airports and with the aviation companies?
Ms. Anita Biguzs:
Mr. Chair, the move to safety management systems, I think, is certainly a move to try to address what we know is growing volumes in the industry.
As I was mentioning, the idea is that we put a lot of onus on industry to be systems-based, to put in place systems that are proactive in identifying risks. Our job is also to assess those systems that carriers and operators have in place to make sure they meet our regulations, and we use a risk-based approach.
The work that we've been doing to address some of the gaps or the weaknesses that the Auditor General has identified was intended to help to focus us those efforts on making sure that we have the tools and the documentation and the consistency across the system, and that our inspectors, from one region to another, have the guidance they need in terms of implementing the plans and doing the inspections.
Mr. MacDonald, do you want to add to that?
Hon. Gerry Byrne (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, Lib.):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ferguson, you noted in your report that there are 5,000 aviation companies operating within the Canadian jurisdiction that are subject to federal oversight as part of Transport Canada's civilian aviation authority, that are its responsibilities.
Mr. Ferguson, you also noted that only the highest-risk companies within the Canadian jurisdiction are targeted for on-site surveillance of safety management protocols and inspections at the hanger level. Based on your notes, can you inform the committee how many Canadian companies are categorized by Canada's civil aviation authority as high-risk companies?
If that information is not available to you through your notes, may I ask the associate deputy minister?
Hon. Gerry Byrne:
That's not my question, though. I appreciate your discussion around it, but it's not the discussion.
I would have come to a parliamentary committee with that information if I were reviewing an Auditor General's report on civil aviation and had noted that only high-risk companies are actually inspected by Canada's civil aviation authority and that only two-thirds of the number of inspections that were designated to occur actually occurred. It is a piece of information that Parliament should have available to it.
The second piece of information—I'll move to the next issue—that Parliament should have available to it is the national human resources plan for civil aviation oversight. As a human resources plan, that was promised in 2008. I understand it has been somewhat partially provided; however, as the Auditor General pointed out, the plan does not specify the number of inspectors or engineers that are needed to do the job.
May I ask Transport Canada, through you, the associate deputy minister, if you will provide Parliament with an updated national human resources plan for civil aviation oversight that includes specific numbers for inspectors and engineers, as per the Auditor General's findings and recommendations on that human resources plan?
Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you so much to our guests for being here today.
I'd like to expand the discussion on the safety management systems. As someone who flies hundreds of hours a year, I do thank you for the safety record we have.
When I look at the report you have presented to us, on page 12 you are talking about our position in the world and things we're dealing with. It says:
||The department was later recognized as an early SMS implementer by ICAO. ICAO is now implementing SMS Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) globally, and the close working relationship with ICAO has ensured that....
Then there are a bunch of other acronyms that are associated with that, but basically we are talking about it exceeding the standards that there are globally, and basically that it was a model of what we could expect to see.
I'm wondering if you could expand a little bit on that. I'd like to know as well if this audit, to your mind, offers insights into the utility of the safety management approach used by civil aviation oversight.
Mr. Gerard McDonald:
I think the best way to describe a safety management system is to say it's a way of forcing operators to develop a system to ensure they are meeting a regulatory requirement.
When I'm talking about this, I often use a very basic example of, perhaps, a taxi company. We might have a regulation that says the brakes on your taxi have to be a minimum of five millimetres thick. In the past we might have been able to ensure that by taking off the tire and looking at the brakes all the time. With a safety management system, what we would do now is to say to the operator that you have to have a system in place to ensure that your brakes never reach below that level of thickness. We would go into his organization and say, "Show us you have the system developed, that you inspect your brakes at a given interval, and that you have it inspected by a person who is duly qualified", and we would check all those records. We might even take off the wheel and look at the brakes while we're there, simply to make sure that everything falls into place. If we see anything that is out of place, that gives us an indication that maybe we have to dig down deeper into the system to see what the problems might be.
The other advantage of a safety management system is that it's incumbent upon the company, if there are deviations in their plans from what they're supposed to be doing, to come up with a plan to improve it and to convince us that the plan they're presenting will truly meet the requirements of the regulations.
I don't know if you want to add anything, Martin.
Mr. Martin Eley:
I think the example is a very good one.
The emphasis is on being proactive. In the past the systems were reactive: operators would react to a problem, and we would also react to that. When it came to our level, our expectation is they're proactive in managing safety along the lines of what Mr. McDonald just explained by way of example, to look for problems and to identify solutions so that, generally speaking, they're generally ahead of the problems.
The research basically shows that by doing that, you deal with all the little things. Hopefully, they'll never build up to the point where you get a critical situation. In the past, that level of attention was not being paid to details on a regular basis. The industry people who get it really make a huge difference to us in terms of their performance.
Mr. Gerard McDonald:
That will be a real challenge in the short time we have available.
Mr. Bryan Hayes: Just do your best.
Mr. Gerard McDonald: Very quickly, have we improved our tools? Yes, we have. As a result of the AG's report? Obviously. The AG's report has helped us inform ourselves as to the areas that we need to improve.
We have also improved them as we move to a system-based methodology. We had to change the methodology that our inspectors used to undertake the inspections. We have a very comprehensive set of instructions for our inspectorate on how to undertake various inspections, whether it's an assessment, which is a large audit of a system, or whether it's a program validation inspection, which is a fairly comprehensive review of a particular program of an area, or whether it's a process inspection, which is looking at one particular thing in an organization.
Martin, I'm not sure if there's anything you want to add on the inspection process.
Hon. Gerry Byrne:
Thank you very much.
I'll move to another topic. The Auditor General pointed out that in 2008 a very specific recommendation was made by the OAG, which was accepted by the Government of Canada and in particular by Transport Canada. It was that the national human resources plan for the oversight of civil aviation should and must specify the number of inspectors and engineers needed to perform the role.
The department agreed to provide that in 2008, but as the Auditor General pointed out again this morning, it has never been done. The human resources plan does not specify the number of inspectors or engineers and put that as an accountable standard for Parliament to determine whether or not Transport Canada is meeting its obligations.
Will you refine and rewrite the national human resources plan for the oversight of civil aviation and include a specific number of inspectors and engineers that are needed to do the job, yes or no?
Hon. Gerry Byrne:
Thank you very much.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that we take this matter very seriously, because human health and safety are at risk.
I'll ask the Auditor General, and maybe your colleagues, Mr. Ferguson, about the civil oversight.
We've had issues with civil oversight, which has basically been sent back to the companies involved. We've had a major issue with XL Foods in terms of food safety. We have major issues with aviation safety when we see that two-thirds of all inspections that are planned for high-risk companies are not conducted.
Is there any key insight you could provide as to whether this kind of passing of the buck or delegation of authority is working or not? Are there any recommendations you could give us about this particular practice?
Mr. Alain Giguère:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to talk about inspection and risk characterization at Transport Canada. The Auditor General had already said that in a majority of cases, inspections do not indicate the scope of the records reviewed in the company or, most importantly, whether the findings could have a significant impact on safety. How can we hope that a situation will be remedied if the dangers observed are not included in the report?
I would like to make an important comment. I do not want to ambush you, but from the research I did, I have files on an airline company whose flight authorization was suspended because of a problem that was two years old. It took the department two years to realize there was a major risk.
Can you answer the question, please? How can a situation where there is a risk be remedied if the dangers observed are not reported?
Mr. Alain Giguère:
Doing inspections is a good thing, but if the inspector goes somewhere and has not been told about the relevant risks, the inspector does not know what specific points to inspect. This is particularly the case in the files that I have: there were inspections, but because he was not told there was a major risk, he continued to authorize the company to fly for two years, when there was a significant danger. That is the problem.
On page 21 of your report, you listed 10 of the key hazard areas. Your department has no complaints office. A passenger, a crew member, a ground mechanic, a NAV CANADA staff member or someone working at an airport may observe a danger or a risk relating to a company, and your department has no complaints office. In saying this, I am relying on the documents you provided to us. An inspector is not told there is a risk that he or she should examine more closely in the next inspection. That is problematic.
That is what happened in the cases I referred to. There were official complaints made to a high-ranking employee in your department, and that official did not put them in the file. As a result, your inspector went out and did not see anything. It was not until two and a half years later that you decided to say that what had happened in 2009 was unacceptable, to the point that you withdrew the flight authorization. That is a major error.
Why do you not have a complaints office? That in itself would mean that your inspectors, who test an adequate number of cases, are interviewing the right people to reach the right conclusion from the right information that they have received.
Mr. Martin Eley:
There are really two primary sources for the mandatory training in terms of ministerial delegated authority for the Minister of Transport.
We have policy documents that specify exactly what training the inspectors need to do their work, so that's a requirement for the delegation. In some cases, training may be specified in the contract of employment. Again it's mandatory, but from a different source.
Within civil aviation we have directives in terms of the surveillance training, for example, the inspectors need to have. There's also an ongoing need, not necessarily mandatory, to make sure people continue to be technically competent in their technical field as well as in their inspection field.
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe:
So it is a range of issues. Nonetheless, in your words, we are talking about security issues that may take up to 10 years to be addressed, from the time they are identified. When they are identified, they may have existed for several years already. It would be reasonable for people to be concerned when they see safety issues taking several years to be resolved.
I would like to know whether Ms. Biguzs or Mr. McDonald have taken this finding seriously.
Now, with this new plan you have implemented, how many years will it take before you tackle safety issues seriously?
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe:
If you don't mind, I will interrupt you. I'm sorry about that.
My question relates to the security issues identified in the Auditor General's report that take time to resolve. I do not want to hear that it is rare for that to happen. Even if it happens only once, that is once too often. Nor do I want to hear that it is complex. That is not what I want to hear from you.
I want to know whether you take this seriously and whether you have tried to adopt new ways of dealing with it in your new action plan.
Yes, it is complex; I understand. It may be rare, but once is once too often.
Are you taking this seriously? Have you paid attention to it in your new plan?
Mr. Bev Shipley:
A couple of colleagues talked about risk assessment in terms of downturn. Can you talk to us quickly about what has changed or not changed since the downturn in the 1990s? How has the safety management system improved since the last downturn in the 1990s to now, in terms of the whole of aviation?
Second, I want to go back to a comment made earlier regarding the safety management system. I think it was left that the carriers were involved. When you have a situation in which the carriers are involved in monitoring, does that mean that we basically stay away from them? In some cases in business, we actually try to be proactive so that a potential problem doesn't become a problem by having those initiatives in place.
Could you address those two questions for me, please?
That's fine. We hear the answer.
The committee will respond in their report as to whether they find that acceptable or not. I appreciate that. That's what I was seeking from you, and I think that takes care of Mr. Byrne's question.
Second, I want to emphasize again—and I think there was adequate discussion here—that this is something the committee historically takes very seriously. If the message hasn't gone out to all DMs and ADMs, they are going to find themselves in trouble someday.
When previous audits have found things lacking, and then we find in an updated audit that the matter still hasn't been dealt with, that's when we really start to get red-hot. This matter of the number of inspectors and engineers falls under that category.
I think it was adequately dealt with here, but I would point out that when those kinds of things happen, those are red alerts. They are red flags to this committee. When it comes to inspections, given that we are talking about the health and safety of Canadians, I can't think of anything more important. Hopefully we won't see a further audit after this one that makes any reference at all to anything in this audit not done. We had one in the last one; let's get none in the next one, please.
The last thing, colleagues, is we are good to go for one hour on the special examinations of the crown corporations. There were two at an hour each, but we could only get confirmation on one. I would suggest that we go ahead with the one hearing, and then the balance of that time we will use for report writing. Is that agreed from the committee? Very good.
With that, colleagues, we will wrap up.
First of all, thank you all very much for your attendance. I know you had a great time here today. We look forward to seeing you all again.
Mr. Ferguson, thank you, sir, and your office, again, for all your good work.
This committee meeting stands adjourned.