Business of Supply
Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting time for me to rise and speak to our opposition day motion, which catches the new Liberal government in a quandary, in that the old Liberal Party and promises to Liberal politicians are coming back in vogue and so-called evidence-based decision-making is being tossed aside if it impacts one or two people in the PMO or close to the Prime Minister.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Carleton.
I stand today with an interesting perspective. This has to do with Toronto island airport, or Billy Bishop airport, and Bombardier. I have had personal experiences with both, much like the last speaker, who did not talk at length about her experience with the air force and with Bombardier in particular.
My first landings at Billy Bishop airport were with the RCAF, which has long used Toronto island airport as a search and rescue stopping point. I have landed there with both a C-130 Hercules crew and with my Sea King crew.
Interestingly enough, the CT-142, the modified Dash 8 flown by the RCAF for navigation training in Winnipeg, was a de Havilland aircraft, later a Bombardier aircraft, that became a pillar of that company’s production and its worldwide reputation. At that time, to help the company, the Canadian government acquired and utilized aircraft within the RCAF at a time when de Havilland was transitioning into Bombardier. However, today we are looking at a situation where the government is allowing politics to interfere with a private sector sale that would help Bombardier, and that is troubling.
I will be speaking on both aspects of this opposition day motion.
As an MP in the greater Toronto area and as a lawyer who, after my air force career, practised law in Toronto, both in North York and downtown on Bay Street, I used Porter Airlines the second week it was operating. The member for Spadina—Fort York was hoping that the second week would be its last week of operations, but it flourished. That first flight I took to Montreal for business had about five people on it. Its exceptional service and attention to detail led both the airport and the airline to expand.
Other partners used Billy Bishop as well, based on its function and its ease of use, thereby taking people off the highways and allowing them to use public transit to get to an airport much more frequently than the new Union Pearson Express does.
The Q400 became the linchpin of the Porter Airlines fleet. It became the standard. This aircraft sustained jobs in Montreal and the success of Bombardier. It is assembled in Toronto, and I am proud of the fact that a lot of constituents in Durham work on that line in Toronto. It is a significant employer in the GTA. Highly paid and highly skilled people work on that world-class line at Downsview, including an old friend of mine, Jeff Laird from Bowmanville, who is one of the lead engineers with Bombardier.
We are proud of the success of that aircraft and that its private sector partner was allowed to thrive and have sales around the world.
The C Series is the next Q400, the next aircraft that Bombardier is on the cusp of unleashing around the world to new customers. With its fuel efficiency, its silent operation, its ability to land at fairly smaller airports with smaller runways, it is a versatile aircraft that is best in its class.
Porter Airlines seized the ability for the next stage of its growth to allow more opportunity and more consumer choice for the millions of people who live in the GTA and use Billy Bishop airport. I have used Billy Bishop airport without ever having put a car on the highway. One would think a lot of members, particularly my friend from Spadina—Fort York, would like hopping on the GO train 70 kilometres away from the airport, getting into the city, taking a shuttle, and taking off from Billy Bishop without ever getting on a 400 series highway.
When I was a lawyer with Procter & Gamble in North York, I used to take the TTC subway Yonge line to catch my flight at Porter. It is a remarkably versatile airport and airline that would be able to do even more with the C Series.
The motion today highlights that after not even 100 days, the politics of the old Liberal Party is back and that the quid pro quo for a few members of that caucus will hold back something in the public interest for wider southern Ontario and our aerospace industry.
We have a situation where the government likes to talk a lot about evidence-based decision-making and yet issued its decision on Billy Bishop airport with a tweet limited to 140 characters, to say that thousands of jobs and an airline’s expansion would be at risk, and the travel options for millions of people in the GTA would be limited.
What does this mean? Does it mean that the government will support the Pickering airport, which it ran against in the last election? At least for the decision related to the Pickering airport, we had Transport Canada do a volume assessment study. It did not just look at Pearson. It looked at Hamilton, at the John Munro airport, named after one of the Liberals’ former colleagues. It looked at Kitchener-Waterloo, at Toronto Island Billy Bishop, and whether there would be a Pickering airport in the future.
If the government is to make an evidence-based decision, where is the study on the impact of this and lower growth that would result in Toronto centre? How would that impact Pearson? How would that impact Pickering? Would it make the Pickering airport larger. Perhaps the MP for Pickering—Uxbridge could answer that to the House.
None of that was done because this was tweeted to keep a few people happy within the Liberal Party. Let us not fool ourselves and deny this was done for the narrow interests of a few.
The second aspect of this is that the government, in making this political decision for a few insiders, is potentially hampering the growth of our aerospace industry. The irony is that the government is weighing a billion dollar bailout for Bombardier but blocking a private sector sale. It is ludicrous. Here is a private sector company that does not want assistance in acquiring the C Series aircraft. In fact it wants to acquire it because it is the best in the world for the operation it needs. It wants to purchase it, but the government’s decision for a few insiders is limiting that sale and hampering Bombardier’s ability to get the first number of sales out the door. The Minister of Transport likes to talk a lot about Air Canada’s interest. That is great, but we know that a number of customers are needed to get the production line and the values for that aircraft in place. What we have here is political interference for a few people impacting thousands of jobs.
This is at a time when, as I said to my colleague from Aurora, a former air force officer herself, that Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Bell, Bombardier, our entire aerospace industry, is worried. With the political decisions about cancelling the F-35 and prospect of being back in a decade of darkness for the military from our withdrawal from our modest mission in fighting ISIL, these global aerospace providers are looking twice at making investments in Canada. This is at a time when we have a stellar company with a world-class reputation like Bombardier.
The last thing a prime minister of our country should do is to allow borough politics, old school Boston era 1880s politics, where a few people with a megaphone and some drums can limit a private sector sale to help a company survive and the jobs of thousands of people, including people in Durham, and limit competition and the options for millions of people in the GTA. There are more people in the GTA than in Spadina—Fort York.
My hope is that the Minister of Transport steps back and says that more than 140 characters are needed to make an evidence-based decision to help a company and to make sure our aerospace industry thrives.