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Senate not in rush to pass airline passenger-rights bill despite Liberal frustration

08 Dec 17
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The Liberal government is expressing frustration with the Senate for flaws in pushing through legislation which would give airline passengers rights, but senators say they will not be hurried into rubber-stamping the invoice.

The Trudeau government’s Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, sets out, among other things, national standards for the treatment of air passengers in Canada.

It’ll be up to the Canadian Transport Authority to write regulations outlining the details after the bill passes in the Senate and receives royal assent.

According to the invoice, airlines will not be permitted to bump passengers from a flight against their own will and would need to give compensation for overbooking, damaged or lost luggage, and for delays and cancellations which are inside the air carrier’s control.

The bill passed in the Commons and has been delivered to the Senate five months ago, but it has yet to move past the second-reading stage of disagreement in the Red Chamber. This week, Senator Terry Mercer, deputy leader of the Senate Liberals, revived debate on the bill and said he would resume his part of the discussion later this week or next.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he expects senators will send the bill to committee before Parliament takes its winter break at the end of next week.

“The Senate is obviously master of its destiny. At exactly the exact same time, I’m really hoping they can deal with this absolutely as soon as possible,” Mr. Garneau said in an interview. “Canadians have certainly suggested their high degree of interest in getting something as soon as possible.”

Mr. Garneau said the bill failed “extensive” research in the Commons, once the transportation committee held hearings for a week until Parliament returned in September. “I hope the Senate will take that into account and not always think, ‘Oh, we must start over at point zero.'”

However, some senators say the 74-page piece of legislation, which many are calling an omnibus bill, is much more complex than it seems.

The bill raises foreign ownership limits for drivers, requires railways to set up video and voice recorders in locomotives and overhauls the grain transportation system. Unions have lobbied heavily against installing video recorders.

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk, who chairs the Senate’s transport committee, said he doubts the bill will get through committee before winter break. The Senate is scheduled to sit until Dec. 22, but Mr. Tkachuk said he expects to be gone by next week, when the House rises.

“I don’t have any intention of holding up the bill. But at exactly the exact same time, I have no any intention of rushing the bill through,” he said. “There is a whole lot of people who I know of who have called me and composed letters and e-mails, that would like to come before the committee. I am not going to tell them they can not come.”

Mr. Tkachuk added, “There is something about the Liberals that is really strange. They need an independent Senate till they do not want one.”

For his part, Mr. Mercer said it had been a part of his job as a Nova Scotia senator to attend the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion.

He said he hopes to talk to the bill shortly and denied that he is holding it up. “The Senate needs to do its due diligence. It should do what we always do, call witnesses, hear testimony and determine if we could agree with this. And if we can not agree with it, then let us fix it and send it back to the House of Commons.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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