OTTAWA, 19 May 06
OTTAWA – Federal NDP MPs are holding press conferences in Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver today to decry the federal Conservative government’s move to reduce passenger safety by cutting the number of flight attendants required on Canadian planes. Lobbyists from the airlines have been pushing for these cutbacks.
“This is a clear reduction in safety standards,” said NDP Transport Critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster). ”The NDP is opposed to lessening Canadian air safety standards to conform to weaker American ones.”
Other NDP Caucus members Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore), Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) and Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) also opposed the weakening of air safety standards at regional press conferences held across the country in their ridings.
Transport Canada Bureaucrats are proposing a reduction in flight attendant crew minimums even though they rejected a similar proposal in 2001 because of safety concerns. Many believe the full complement of trained flight attendants on board of the Air France jet that crashed at Toronto’s Pearson Airport last summer were a crucial factor in the survival of all passengers. The safety experts of the Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the role flight attendants played in that incident.
“Imagine for a moment a plane in flames and having 140 passengers on an A320, including people with disabilities and seniors, being evacuated by three flight attendants. Under the new regulation of one flight attendant for every 50 seats, only three flight attendants would be required to handle the A320 cabin, which is 120 feet long and has a total of eight exits - four floor level and four over-wing. In the event of a crash, this is a horrifying scenario,” said Julian.
Transport Canada bureaucrats also pushed the previous Liberal government to change these rules. The NDP opposition at the time and the imminence of a federal election forced the Liberals to hold off on to applying the regulations. Transport Canada has refused to release the full documents that indicate the gravity and concerns around flight safety, despite repeated requests under the Access to Information Act.
Recently, Conservative Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon indicated that he will consult the public on these changes.