History of SMS Legislation

The Act to Amend the Aeronautics Act and Make Consequential Amendments to Other Acts, meant to enable Safety Management Systems (SMS) in the aviation industry, was first introduced on September 28, 2005 as Bill C-62 by the Liberal government then in power.   On November 15th, SMS was formalized for the business aviation sector through amendments to the Civil Aviation Regulations, Part VI, Subpart 604.

By the time the 38th Parliament, 1st Session dissolved on November 29, 2005 the Bill had not made it onto the table for study by the House Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (SCOTIC), and died on the Order Paper.

The Bill was then re-introduced as Bill C-6 by the Conservatives on April 27, 2006, shortly after the 39th Parliament, 1st Session convened.   Debate ensued; the Bill was read a second time on November 7, 2006 and referred to the SCOTIC for study.  Meeting and evidence information can be found here:  SCOTIC Meetings, 39th Parliament, 1st Session.  The following is an extract from the Legislative Summary.

On 27 April 2006, the Hon. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, introduced Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, in the House of Commons.  The bill is very similar in most respects to its predecessor, Bill C-62, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which was introduced in the House of Commons on 28 September 2005 (1st Session, 38th Parliament).  That bill died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of Parliament, without having gone beyond first reading.  Department officials say the substantial amendments to the Aeronautics Act (the Act) contained in Bill C-6 are necessary to improve aviation safety and to bring the Act in line with other transportation Acts that have recently been updated.

Key amendments to the Aeronautics Act proposed in Bill C-6 include the following:

  • additional regulation-making powers in areas such as aircraft emissions control and the mitigation of the effects of personnel fatigue, as well as safety management systems for holders of Canadian aviation documents;
  • new powers, comparable to those of the Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, for the Canadian Forces Airworthiness Investigative Authority to investigate aviation incidents and accidents involving both military personnel and civilian contractors;
  • provisions to encourage employees of Canadian aviation document holders to report safety concerns voluntarily without fear of legal or disciplinary action;
  • provisions to allow for more self-regulation in low-risk areas of the aeronautics industry (e.g., crop spraying); and
  • additional tools for the Minister of Transport (Minister) to ensure compliance and increased penalties for contraventions.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (House Committee) agreed upon a number of amendments to the bill.  Among these amendments include those that:

  • declare the primacy of the Canada Labour Code over the Act in the event of an inconsistency;
  • oblige the Minister to hold aeronautical activities to the highest safety and security standards and to maintain oversight and surveillance of aviation safety;
  • increase the Minister’s regulation-making powers with respect to safety management systems; and
  • increase the Minister’s regulation-making powers with respect to designated organizations and postpone for three years the coming into force of the designation provisions.

The Report from the SCOTIC was adopted by the Committee on June 11th, 2007 and presented to the House of Commons on June 13, 2007.

Despite the amendments that had been made by the SCOTIC, there was still considerable concern from the Members of Parliament.  The Bill died on the Order Paper when it was not adopted before the end of the 1st Session of the 39th Parliament. 

It was then reintroduced directly into Report Stage as Bill C-7 on October 29, 2007 after the Second Session of the 39th Parliament convened.  Debate at Third Reading ensued briefly, and was then left off the Order Paper until the summer break approached in 2008, at which time the Bill was effectively blocked and once again died on the Order Paper (Video 2:21).

Notwithstanding the considerable concern about the proposed Bill from politicians, industry representatives and other stakeholders, Transport Canada has proceeded with changes to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), thereby implementing Safety Management Systems (SMS) into the airline and airline maintenance sectors of the industry, with plans to implement SMS to the remainder of the industry now pushed back to November 2011 from the original target of December 2010. 

The Bill was not re-introduced before the end of the 40th Parliament, Second Session in June 2009 as expected. Inside sources now state the Bill will never be re-introduced - instead, Transport Canada will likely attempt to sneak SMS legislation into place via Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) in order to avoid further opposition and debate.

Widespread industry concerns remain over the proposed bills - including the lack of effective whistleblower protection and secrecy provisions.  But stopping the bill has made no difference.

Despite a Sweeping Condemnation of Transport Canada's Approach to Aviation Safety by Auditor General Sheila Fraser (see: Oversight of Air Transportation Safety:  Chapter 3 - May 2008 Report of the Auditor General) Transport Canada continues its brute force tactics in implenting this controversial regulatory change in such a way as to avoid due process, and while simultaneously abandoning traditional oversight in spite of its obligation to the International Civil Aviation Organization.  (Please see Transport Canada’s SMS does not meet International Aviation Standards .doc for more information.) 

Perhaps the true objective can be traced to this Transport Canada Civil Aviation PowerPoint Presentation, Service Line Plan and Resource Options (SLP) 2001-2002

The SLP identified that there was a shortage of 70 full-time employees (FTEs) and $17.3 million as a result of the need to "address the increased oversight workload", and explains what the increased workload and funding pressures resulted from, such as the CARS rewrite recommended by the Moshansky Commission of Inquiry and the sustained growth of the commercial aviation sector.

It goes on to describe interim methods of addressing the program funding pressures, including reciprocal agreements with foreign authorities and the pursuit of "self-regulation and industry delegation opportunities". 

Next the SLP suggests three options:

  1. Accept the approved resource base with current risk levels (status quo)
  2. Increase the resource base to meet current oversight and service delivery requirements
  3. Significant program changes to maintain safety oversight with decrease in levels of service delivery

The proposed strategies for Option 3. were projected to reduce resource requirements by 89 FTEs and $9.1M. Option 3 includes:

Safety Management Systems

* long term resource benefits of supporting the adoption of SMS in industry (through regulation, education, promotion, etc.) will eventually reduce

  • regulatory burden
  • crown liability
  • oversight requirements