Minister of Transport David Collenette
Remarks to the Standing Committee on Transport and Gov't Operations
Parliament House
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
October 4, 2001

I am pleased to have this opportunity today to meet with the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations to discuss the challenges currently facing the transportation sector in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th.

As we all know, the impact of the terrorist attacks in the United States is being felt around the world. The human suffering has been enormous in the days following the 11th. The work of this Committee is instrumental to the broader effort of the Government of Canada, and all governments internationally, to ensure that our citizens are protected from these horrors in the future.

There is little doubt that the most pressing issues facing the transportation sector arising from these events are the safety and security of Canada's transportation system, and the financial impact on Canadian air carriers. The impact is being felt by air carriers around the globe.

I will address both of these issues in detail in my remarks, but allow me to begin by briefly describing the actions taken by Transport Canada in response to this tragedy.

In the moments following the attacks in New York and Washington, my department responded immediately to protect the safety of travelers. I declared the closure of Canadian airspace to all but military, police and humanitarian flights.

At the same time, Transport Canada, working in close cooperation with airports, air carriers and Nav Canada, undertook the enormous task of accepting 226 international and domestic flights that were redirected to various Canadian airports.

In addition, security measures were immediately instituted at airports across the country, including evacuation of some areas and deployment of police and security at key access points.

In the days following, Transport Canada undertook yet another monumental task – the re-opening of Canadian airspace, airspace which had never previously been closed to commercial traffic.

Once again, a high degree of cooperation resulted in over 33,000 passengers being welcomed by communities across Canada, continued over the next several days. Between Wednesday September 12th and Friday September 14th, all of the restrictions were gradually lifted.

It is important for Canadians to understand that as part of the reopening of Canadian airspace, enhanced security measures were instituted.

The measures included: limiting access to restricted areas at airports; tightening security controls and screening checkpoints; increasing police presence at major airports; increasing passenger screening; enhancing baggage security measures; and implementing measures to prohibit small knives and knife-like objects on board aircraft.

It is important to note that prior to September 11th Transport Canada regularly reviewed the aviation security system – security regulations, standards, procedures, and equipment requirements. This is part of my department's regular, ongoing work.

In the face of the changing security environment Transport Canada continues to ensure the aviation industry is held to the highest safety standards through its heightened monitoring activities.

The Security and Emergency Preparedness Directorate of Transport Canada is responsible for the development and implementation of programs that contribute to the security of the national transportation system. In this regard, the department works in cooperation with all of the relevant federal departments and agencies in Canada and our partners in the United States, including the FAA, to prevent incidents that threaten the security of the national transportation system.

A senior Transport Canada official has been appointed to lead a team in conjunction with our security personnel to examine the changing environment, our current approach to security and the department's legislative and regulatory framework.

Transport Canada has in place a rigorous and comprehensive inspection and testing program in which full-time staff are assigned to airports across the country.

Canada's security programs meet or exceed the International Civil Aviation Organization's security standards. Implementation of these requirements is a key element of civil aviation security arrangements in Canada, and Canada is party to all international aviation security conventions.

As a consequence of the ongoing review of aviation security and in response to the realities of September 11th we have taken further action to introduce additional security measures.

I announced that cockpit doors on all Canadian airline passenger flights – domestic and international – must be locked for the full duration of the flight.

I announced that Transport Canada has accelerated the purchase of new, advanced explosives detection systems for use at Canadian airports.

As well, Transport Canada is engaged in the active pursuit, with the FAA, European authorities and others, of security improvements to cockpits, including fortifying cockpit doors. Again, this work was well underway prior to September 11th.

We are in the process of implementing further enhancements to passenger screening and additional security measures with respect to cargo shipments.

And we will continue to implement security measures should new issues be identified.

As I've already mentioned Transport Canada works in close cooperation with the FAA and other U.S. departments and security agencies.

We are monitoring developments in the U.S. very closely and are working with our American colleagues to find the most appropriate methods to enhance aviation security. It is fair to say that although our approach to security has been, and continues to be somewhat different, both countries have well-established security programs.

But I must take this opportunity to point out that many of the security measures announced last week by President Bush are already in place in Canada.

Security personnel at Canadian airports are subject to extensive background and security checks. While this may be a new measure in the United States, Transport Canada has an extensive clearance program for all airport employees who have access to restricted areas and steps are already underway to further improve the clearance program.

The US announced the establishment of new standards for security operations.

The Canadian government already plays a strong role in the management and oversight of airport security services.

Our current role includes setting standards for the training and performance of screening personnel. My department employs inspectors across the country at all major airports to oversee and test the performance of screening procedures and our inspection and testing activities have been increased to respond to recent events.

President Bush announced the restricted opening of cockpit doors during flights.

As I noted earlier, I announced on September 17th that cockpit doors on all Canadian airline passenger flights – both domestic and international – must be locked for the full duration of the flight. This announcement builds upon my earlier announcement in February of this year that cockpit doors must be locked in the event of unruly or abusive passenger behaviour that threatens the safety of the aircraft.

In addition to these differences between the Canadian and US security regimes there are other differences which may be more apparent to the general public. While travelers have been able to use curbside check-in at American airports, this practice is not allowed in Canada. Similarly, in Canadian airports only departing travelers can access secure boarding areas. In the US departing travelers could be accompanied to the gate by individuals not boarding the aircraft.

In the remaining minutes I would like to talk about the viability of the Canadian airline industry overall and the impact that the events of September 11 have had on the industry.

As members of this committee are aware, the Canadian airline industry has undergone major changes in the last few years.

It was our job, as the elected representatives of the public, to ensure that our constituents needs – whether as airline passengers, employees, or residents of small communities - were served. And we were able to fulfill the leadership role demanded of us.

We brought in measures to promote competition and the industry responded – new carriers appeared and older ones grew. Bill C-26, which came into force on July 5, 2000, made Air Canada's commitments and undertakings enforceable. The Bill gave the Competition Bureau new powers to address predatory behaviour.

Bill C-26 also gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to deal with price gouging by monitoring prices on monopoly routes. Other consumer complaints, such as overbooking, bumping and lost luggage, were also addressed.

And under the Bill, the new job of Air Travel Complaints Commissioner was created, to provide the public with a resource to resolve disputes with airlines.

Of course, Air Canada has experienced some operational difficulties in the last year and a half resulting from the merger. I'm sure everyone in this room could come up with a few examples. Still, there is no question that on a macro level Air Canada has handled the merger well.

The airline had begun to turn the corner when other factors started to have an impact. Fuel prices went up. The economy began to slow down and with it, business travel slipped. All airlines had to bring in changes to deal with the new environment.

Clearly, the global airline industry was already facing challenges when the horrors of September 11 forced us to close our airspace, placing enormous costs on an already fragile industry. The losses caused by the days of inactivity are being exacerbated by an immediate decline in travel in the days following these events and a decrease in advance bookings. We have seen signs in the last few days of increased bookings. Should this continue, the industry will be approaching pre-September 11 levels soon, though transborder traffic is very slow.

Airlines everywhere are hurting. They're cutting staff, reducing capacity and restructuring. More than 125,000 jobs have been lost in the airline industry globally.

Another significant setback was the decision by commercial insurers that they would no longer provide third-party war and terrorism liability coverage the aviation sector in light of the September 11th attacks. Without it, carriers could not fly, airports could not open, and Nav Canada could not provide its essential service.

The government stepped in, with a 90-day indemnity for third-party war and terrorism liability for the Canadian aviation sector. We wanted to support the industry in the short term and give them the chance to develop their own solutions for the longer term.

Most recently, the Government of Canada announced a compensation package specifically designed to make up for losses caused by the closure of our airspace between September 11 and 16. This package amounts to $160 million, to be shared by all affected Canadian carriers, to help the industry recover from the disruption in business.

My department will continue to work with the airline industry to deal with the after-effects of the attacks in the U.S., and the ongoing challenges facing the industry. We will also look at long-term solutions, including the possibility of restructuring, to enable Canada's airline industry to thrive well into the future.

There is much work to be done. That is why I am here with you today. This committee provided invaluable guidance throughout the recent restructuring of Canada's domestic airline industry. And I look forward to your continued advice and recommendations.

Thank you.


©2001 Government of Canada.