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Ottawa Perspective-July/August 05

The new CARs seem to emphasize penalties: up to $5,000 for individuals and up to $25,000 for companies and total fines could quickly mount if Transport Canada gets aggressive.


September 28, 2007
By Ken Pole

Two key aviation developments have been almost lost in the political
backscatter on Parliament Hill in recent weeks: new safety management
systems (SMS) regulations and the abrupt withdrawal of a bill that
should not have been introduced at all.

The
regulations have been in development since Transport Canada (T.C.)
launched its Flight 2005 initiative in 1999 in a bid to ensure
continued improvement of an already high standard of aviation safety
and, hence, public confidence.

“Transport Canada’s safety
oversight program is among the most stringent in the world and has
contributed to Canada’s enviable record,” Transport Minister Jean
Lapierre said as the regulations went into effect with their Canada
Gazette Part II publication.

The amended Canadian Aviation
Regulations require operators to implement a company-specific SMS and
appoint executives who are directly liable for safety. The previous
CARs required companies to have an employee who was responsible for
safety and who reported to management but who was not legally
accountable. “As each organization integrates safety into daily
operations, management and employees can continuously work to identify
and overcome potential safety hazards,” T.C. explained. “This means not
only that problems, hazards, incidents and accidents are reported, but
the associated risks are analyzed and appropriate action is taken.”

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The
Air Transport Association of Canada, having participated in the
Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council for years, generally
welcomes the initiative. But Les Aalders, ATAC’s vice-president of
engineering and maintenance, has concerns.

One is about S-33,
the bill that shouldn’t have existed. Introduced in the Senate in mid-
May, the draft Aeronautics Act amendments represented the first real
attempt to upgrade that statute in two decades. Among other things, it
would have enabled companies or individuals who reported safety
problems to do so without fear of reprisal – whistleblower protection.
But S-33 also would have required the expenditure of public money and,
as such, should have been introduced by the government in the House of
Commons. So four weeks after it was introduced, S-33 was withdrawn.

“We
were really counting on that because of the additional protection it
was providing for the sharing of safety information and the protection
of the suppliers of that information,” Aalders said in an interview,
volunteering that ATAC has been “nervous” about T.C.’s approach.

The
new CARs seem to emphasize penalties: up to $5,000 for individuals and
up to $25,000 for companies. Since that would be for each infraction,
total fines could quickly mount if Transport Canada is aggressive.
“They’ve tried to put us in a comfort zone in saying that things will
only be dealt with through the accountable executive at the individual
company and he won’t be held personally liable,” Aalders said. “It’s
not something we would support, but it’s something they’re going to do
anyway.”

The whole process begs a question: if Canada has such
an excellent record, why was all this necessary? Aalders said it’s part
of a global trend. “There are certain charts available that show that
if we even continue at the existing accident rate, because of the
growth in air transport, we’re going to have more total accidents. We
don’t want to see that happen.”

There also is the fact that
other CARs changes, which could replace the ones just put in place, are
in the works. ATAC wanted T.C. to hold off and do it all at once, to no
avail. I had thought that the government had abandoned its heavy-handed
approach of yore. “We thought so too,” Aalders said, quickly adding
that the industry here still has a better relationship with T.C. than
American operators have with the FAA.

“This one issue was made
such a major part of Flight 2005,” he said. “Senior people at Transport
Canada didn’t want to let go of it or see it getting sidelined… I
just want to do things properly and do them once instead of issuing it
now and then we’re going to change it all in a few years and we’re
going to have exemptions covering it off in the middle. It’s a messy
way of doing it.”


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