NDP, union leaders call for better airplane safety

The NDP and some union leaders claim the federal government is jeopardizing aviation safety by loosening inspection standards.
Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pierre Trudeau airport on Friday, March 23, 2012 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press (The Canadian Press)

The NDP and some union leaders claim the federal government is jeopardizing aviation safety by loosening inspection standards.

Magalie Picard, interim vice-president for the Quebec chapter of the Public Service Alliance, said there is little chance the planes people are boarding for their summer vacations have been inspected by a Transport Canada official.

Since 2009, plan inspections have been handed over to airlines themselves. Governmental authorities monitor the paperwork and conduct random inspections.

Picard said the most recent federal budget would lead to the cancellation of these random check-ups.

She also said that the inspectors responsible for passenger security will no longer be working on evenings, weekends or holidays.

Isabelle Morin, NDP member of parliament for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Lachine, said she had received calls from residents living around the Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport who say they have been finding maintenance tools in their yards.

While people are unsure how these tools may have landed on the properties, many suspect the gear might have fallen from departing planes.

Geneviève Sicard, press secretary for Transportation Minister Denis Lebel, called the NDP's claims "baseless" scare tactics.

"The safety of our aviation system is a top priority for our government," she said in the written statement.

"We have been very clear that our government has not cut a single inspector. There are no cuts to inspectors as this is part of our core business."

She said Canada was the first country to implement Safety Management Systems for airlines, a model that has since been reproduced around the world.

The result, she said, has been a 25 per cent reduction in aviation accidents since 2000 at the same time air travel has increased.