Text of the opening remarks of Massimo Bergamini before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

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Text of the opening remarks of Massimo Bergamini President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities today, as it studies the Security Screening Services Commercialization Act which would transfer airport security screening functions to a new not for profit entity. These remarks have been edited for length.The National Airlines Council of Canada was created to do four things: facilitate industry consensus on key issues; act as a conduit with governments; develop and advocate for policies that support a safe, efficient and globally competitive commercial aviation industry; and perhaps most important, provide a window on our industry and the ecosystem in which it operates.I'm going to ask you to look through that window for a moment to consider the following proposition:The reason today flying is safer than walking to work; or that millions of people move across continents each day, taking off and landing with clockwork precision, is that there is no room for impatience, shortcuts or improvisation in commercial aviation.It is probably fair to say that for the legislators and regulators around the world who expect no less from their commercial aviation sectors this is a true proposition.Now let me ask you to consider what that proposition means for your Committee, for Parliament and for the government.Because here we are, six months before a general election, discussing an aviation policy Bill buried within a money Bill.And let there be no mistake – any suggestion that this process mirrors the successful transfer of Air Traffic Control functions to NAV CANADA in 1996, is disingenuous at best.It may be true that the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act that created NAV CANADA, was also embedded in the enabling legislation for Budget 1996, but the similarities end there.The success of the NAV CANADA model was the result of almost two years of tough negotiations, with almost weekly meetings where everything was on the table.Unlike the Bill we have in front of us today which is designed to expedite by government fiat the offloading of airport security screening functions, the NAV CANADA Bill followed, reflected, and finally enshrined in law the outcome of those negotiations.Let me illustrate with two examples why this matters:The Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act of 1996 provided for compensation for incremental costs stemming from ministerial directives. The Security Screening Services Commercialization Act does not.This is particularly important for us as it relates directly to one of three key caveats we raised with the government in 2017, namely the need to recognize the impact of external security shocks on the operations of a new entity to protect the traveler's pocketbook.Security threats can cause the imposition of new screening requirements resulting in additional costs - CATSA itself was created in response to such an event.And a security event in December 2009 – the so called “underwear bomber” -- prompted an increase in user fees the following year.The second example relates to transition funding.Both the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act of 1996, and the Security Screening Services Commercialization Act set a dollar amount to offset operating costs incurred before the new entity is able to secure an independent revenue stream.The difference, and it's an important one, is that the level of transition funding provided to the fledgling NAV CANADA was determined following negotiations and reflected a mutual understanding of what was required for a successful launch.While Budget 2019 allocated $ 872 million for transition costs, we do not know how that quantum was arrived at; whether it includes ancillary costs such as the air marshal service or the Canadian Transportation Agency's new responsibilities under the Act; whether it covers severance costs for CATSA employees or other start-up costs for the new organization.In 2017 when Transport Canada surveyed industry stakeholders on governance and business model options for CATSA, our industry supported the transfer of its functions to a not-for-profit entity, in principle – we did so with a number of questions and caveats.But instead of engaging with our industry to address them, for two years the Government chose to leave those questions dead letter.Now, as the industry is grappling with major operational challenges stemming from the grounding of the MAX 8; the implementation of new flight duty times rules and with the impossible task of complying by July 1st with prescriptive new passenger rights rules, we are again confronted with a government-imposed deadline and process.Surely no one would suggest that this way of conducting government business meets the standard of unhurried, prudent decision-making that our air carriers are expected to exemplify.Which brings me back to my original question to you: What does this mean for you as Parliamentarians and members of this Committee?As this is a money Bill, there are limits to amendments you can introduce to improve it. That remains the prerogative of the Minister.But your Committee can certainly use its bully pulpit to tell the Minister that it supports an open, unhurried negotiation process; and that Bill must be amended to allow that to happen.Thank you.Massimo Bergamini is the President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC).