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Tens of thousands must speak up now

By Kevin Pustka

 

As I write this, the debate over the future of emergency alerting is drawing to a close. I hope everyone has taken the time to study the issue and put in you own words why mandating new ELTs for our sector of aviation is the wrong way to go.

You have until October 23, to step forward, after which the revised regulation will become law. If you have not done so already, I hope that this article will convince you that it is necessary to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

COPA has done all that we can do to bring reason to this issue, in order to maximize the lives that will be saved and to minimize the cost to you. We continue to make representations to anyone who is willing to listen.

On several occasions, I have communicated with the Transport Minister, Lawrence Cannon, in order to ensure that he understood our side of the story. Ultimately, he has the power to change the course of this regulation. However, I am not convinced that he even knows that the issue is occurring let alone that there are tremendous issues with the justification that Transport Canada bureaucrats have presented for the direction they have chosen.

In a democratic society, the political leaders must be accessible to the people in order to weigh all sides of issues and make the right decisions. They should not remain insulated by senior staff and bureaucrats, and the only way to ensure that they are not insulated is to meet with people or their representatives.

This particular issue not only has implications for people’s lives, it has the potential to cost over $100 million. While I understand that it is impossible for ministers to meet with every individual who feels the need to discuss an issue with them, it should at least be possible and indeed a requirement to meet with representatives of a large group of constituents.

COPA is the largest aviation organization in Canada and our sector is the largest group affected by the ELT regulation, with 25,000 of the 31,000 aircraft in Canada. As well, we have been arguing on behalf of tens of thousands of international aircraft owners who will be barred from Canadian airspace if they do not equip with a new ELT, should the regulation proceed as proposed.

I have copied the Minister on several of our inputs to the process and each time requested a meeting with him to explain and discuss our position. I finally received a letter from a "Senior Special Assistant," the content of which was identical to a letter I had received from the bureaucrats earlier this year in response to COPA’s detailed dissent to the unilateral changes made by them to the consensus that was achieved last year.

The letter in no way addressed COPA’s concerns; in fact it was simply a brush off "don’t worry, be happy" letter. I responded to that letter by sending another communication directly to the Minister. By then, the Canada Gazette had been released, in which Transport Canada attempted to justify the regulation. The justification is extremely flawed containing several incorrect or misleading statements in order to build their case.

I again urged the Minister to meet with me so that I and the tens of thousands of Canadians could be assured that he fully understood these significant flaws. There was no response from the Minister. Instead, an assistant called me to say that the Minister would not meet with me. When asked for a reason, the assistant said that the Minister did not provide a reason.

Subsequently, I received an email from the Minister’s Chief of Staff, in which he said "Minister Cannon appreciates receiving your invitation. Regrettably, his schedule will not allow him to meet with you in the foreseeable future and, as such, he is unable to accede to your request."

So, the matter is now in your hands. As you weigh your options, consider this. The Gazette justification makes the following statement: "Stakeholders support this proposal with the exception of COPA…" COPA is the largest stakeholder group. We have been there for the past 10 years arguing for a reasonable approach to this issue and I know that there are many who are not COPA members and are opposed to this regulation in its current form.

Most of them are individuals like you but since they were not involved in the debate, or represented by groups who took the time to respond in writing to this point in time, they are considered to be in favour of mandating new ELTs. If you do not speak up now, you will be considered to be in favour of the direction that Transport Canada has chosen.

Please also consider this. An election is taking place. The way that Minister Cannon chose to handle this situation demonstrates a flaw in our democracy, or at least with the current government. Take the time to question your candidates about this flaw, ask what they intend to do about it and then vote accordingly.

COPA continues to work the ELT issue but we cannot achieve a reasonable solution by representations by our headquarters alone. Even though we speak for 18,000 owners and pilots directly, and indirectly speak on behalf of tens of thousands more who are not members but will be affected, if ours is the only protest, it will be viewed as only one input. Please take the time to make your thoughts known; to the bureaucrats by responding to the Gazette and to the politicians through the election process.