OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 6:45 p.m. as part of its study on emerging issues related to the Canadian airline industry.

Senator Dennis Dawson (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honorable Senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications to order.


This evening we are continuing our study on the Canadian airline industry. Appearing before us tonight is Mr. Rob Howard, MLA, Provincial Lead of the Air Access file, Government of British Columbia.

Mr. Howard, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We are always happy to see a fellow politician.

Rob Howard, Member, Provincial Lead of the Air Access file, Legislative Assembly of British Columbia: Thank you very much. I am very pleased and honoured to be here. I am the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transportation with a specific focus on air access.

At the risk of sounding too gratuitous, I want to thank you for undertaking this important work. It is critically important to my province, and I believe it is important to the nation.

I serve at the pleasure of the premier and the minister, the Honourable Blair Lekstrom, who both send their best wishes to the committee. The list of ministers in our province who have an interest in my appearance before you tonight is long, and that is long because this air access file has so many tentacles and is so important to so many different activities and so many economic sectors in our province.

For our province, and I believe our country, to reach its full economic potential, we have to look at expanding air access, so I am here to have a discussion with you on that. I will make some recommendations to you with respect to increasing international air travel and, as a result, growing our economy, diversifying our economy and creating jobs.

As I have said, air access is critically important to my province and our nation, and it is urgent that we take steps to allow expansion of air services, passenger and cargo, especially through the Pacific Gateway. In these times of need for job creation and job protection, expanded air services offer a low-cost, low-risk, high-reward way to grow and diversify our economy, allowing us to reach our full potential, so I will present some short-term or immediate recommendations and some long-term recommended actions.

I first want to address some specifics on why this is so important to us and why we care so much about this file. Aviation is critical to growing the B.C. economy, supporting jobs, enabling investment and facilitating trade. The BC Jobs Plan was introduced in September 2011 with the ultimate goal of creating jobs in every community throughout the province. It has three pillars: enabling job creation, delivering goods to market, and opening and expanding markets. These pillars will need the support of a dynamic aviation sector to be successful.

It is surprising how many activities or economic sectors are impacted these day by air access, the movement of people and goods by air.

A number of different strategies that our province has undertaken are quite impacted, and they include international students. We have set a goal to double the number of international students in our province over the next decade. Ease of travel for students in and out of our market internationally is key, as is ease of access for their families to come and get them set up and to visit them on holidays. Air access is really important to that strategy.

Our agri-food strategy and cargo service for cherries, blueberries, cranberries and other perishables is also extremely important. There is a growing connection through the Asia-Pacific with Asian economies and Asian consumers, and our agri-food sector is key amongst them. Seafood exports hit $950 million in 2010, and there is great expectation that that can continue to grow and flourish and create jobs.

There are a host of different parties in the tourism sector. The cruise ship industry banks heavily on ease of air access out of the Port of Vancouver and out of Victoria. Disney was here for a year. They pulled out, citing air access, but they did come back. It is great to see them back, but it really accentuated the importance of air access to their industry. The ramifications for the province and the country are huge, because that on its own is a huge economic generator.

All tourism groups, including ski hills, golf courses and other outdoor recreation, are keenly aware of the importance that international air access has to their business. Our province has an international head office attraction strategy. We all know that these days capital, both human and financial, is fleet of foot. It has the world to choose from. It goes where it is welcome and where it is convenient. Forcing people to take multiple flights to get to a single destination often does not work well with that strategy.

The aerospace industry is another example. The aviation industry itself is big business and that has great benefits for our communities. A single daily trans-Pacific flight from Asia or points east to our province will generate 150 to 200 jobs at the airport, another 150 to 200 or more indirect jobs outside of the airport, and between $5 million and $15 million in economic activity, depending on who is on the plane. We have estimated conservatively in the province of British Columbia that collectively there is about an $800 million hit to our GDP from restrictive air dissuade or discourage air traffic growth.

I am hopeful that we can all recognize the importance of enhanced air access to the provincial and national economies, both as a major sector in aviation on its own and as a vital enabler to a long list of economic activities. Of course the converse is true. If we do not move while the rest of the world is moving, we will restrict our growth, discourage the creation of new jobs and limit our ability to diversify our economy.

Recognizing the historical context of this air access file and its significant challenges, I have set up an air access steering committee in the province. We have extremely strong representation from the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Association of British Columbia, the Vancouver Board of Trade, another chamber or two, and a couple of airports.

I have toured all of the regional airports in the province. I went to Fort St. John planning to give them an air access lesson. I did not get more than a dozen words out of my mouth before the heads were bobbing. The air access IQ all around the province is remarkably high. In Fort St. John, the oil and gas operators understand how important it is to them, and the list goes on. I was a little bit surprised and very pleased at how strong a reception I got when travelling our province. That enabled me to build a coalition that is now approaching 120 people, from ski hill and golf club operators to the cruise ship industry, who want to help.

It is important to recognize what we have done. First, as a province we have stepped up to the plate and invested in this cause. You may have heard that in our most recent budget we maintained our commitment to eliminate a two-cent-a-litre fuel tax on international flights. The cost to our provincial treasury is between $15 million and $20 million at a time when money is extremely tight, but we recognize that the airport and the whole gateway strategy is an economic generator. We believed that the payback would be rather swift.

The Vancouver International Airport secured a commitment from 22 airlines to try to grow their services moving forward with a package that included removing the two-cent-a litre tax and freezing some gate fees. That will help the airlines to grow their service without paying additional costs.

We must appreciate that governments and stakeholders collectively have invested in excess of $20 billion in gateway assets over the last decade. That includes sea ports, airports, rail, highways and bridges. That is a huge investment. We have the hardware in place; now we need to tweak the software and allow airlines greater access through air service agreements. We need a return of investment on our $20 billion plus.

As we think about this, I ask us to keep a couple of principles in mind. The first is to view this issue through more of an economic lens. Right now, I think air access issues get tied up in Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Transportation and CBSA. Many different departments have an interest in the file. I understand that, but sometimes you lose sight of the big picture, and the big picture is economic development, growth, diversification and jobs. The economic lens is the first guiding principle I would encourage all of us to keep in mind.

Second, the process needs to be a little more open, in our view. Right now, negotiations happen behind closed doors. These are negotiations on the air service agreements. The agreements do not see the day of light, as contrasted to the U.S., where you can Google them and they are online.

As stakeholders, we do not always have a clear idea what is being negotiated and why. The term “national interest” is used a lot, and I think everyone understands that. What is national interest? Is it 5 per cent commercial and 95 per cent community, or is it 50/50? Does it change from time to time? We just do not know, and it does make it difficult for stakeholders to plan and to attack the file with a greater sense of purpose.

Inviting input and observation by stakeholders gives us all a good solid working understanding of the playing field that we are in.

I have some short-term recommendations and some long-term thoughts. This is the sheet that has reverse bolding on it and is headed “International Air Access — British Columbia Short-term — Specific Asks.” I will not go over each of these because you have it in front of you, but I will hit on the first issue, which is that Canada's Blue Sky Policy is due for renewal in 2012, and it is imperative that governments and stakeholders have a genuine opportunity for input.

As we look to increase our dialogue on this file, the Blue Skies Policy was introduced in 2006. It is up for its five-year renewal, and we are asserting — asking as loudly and as clearly as we can — that stakeholders and our government have a real, genuine opportunity for input.

On the short-term list as well, you will see under “Bilateral ASAs” that we are talking about removing capacity restrictions with Taiwan. I do not think I gave this to you, but I will leave copies. We just collected a series of letters from business and organization leaders from the Taiwanese community in the province to underscore that there is pent-up demand on both the passenger and the cargo side with Taiwan.

I wanted to give you a few examples of what life is like on the airport street out in British Columbia and some examples of where we have not had success and we should be able to have success.

Singapore Airlines flew into YVR for about 20 years. They came three days a week. For them, it just did not make sense. It was kind of like operating a hotel three days a week and there were not enough options for their business travellers. They wanted to come daily. They pursued this with their federal government for a few years. They got turned down, and eventually tired of asking, they left. They pulled their service. Now I guess that traffic comes either through San Francisco or Los Angeles, but it is big loss to the community.

I know Emirates evokes some emotion, but Emirates is just another example. It wanted to come. It was just a direct, non-stop drop-off. There were no beyonds or infiltration into our system. They were told no. They went to Seattle to set up. Part of their marketing program calls themselves the “gateway to Whistler.” That almost brings tears to my eyes because that should not be allowed to happen. That is hurtful, and it would cost YVR between 20,000 and 30,000 seats per year.

I have already talked about Taiwan. There is pent up demand for cargo, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence, even in my office. My office staff fly back and forth. I guess it was last May; they had to book in September to get a single ticket.

I want to speak about Air France briefly. Air France wanted to come for years. They could not. They set up in Seattle as well. Now they can come because we have signed with EU, but they have capital, people, networks and dollars invested in Seattle, and I do not know if they will come back. There are other stories.

I want to make it clear, too, that we are not talking about cabotage; we are simply talking about beyond rights and more access.

I will close and say that, as senators, you have a unique and powerful position that leads to opportunity. As I have said, it is a low-risk, low-cost and high-reward way to grow and diversify our economy and create jobs. We live in an age where we can no longer afford artificial restraints on our economy. I look forward to answering questions.

Senator Doyle: Good evening, Mr. Howard. I read some of your biography, a very interesting one. Of course, you were an advocate of open skies with Asian countries, and I would imagine you still are one of those advocates.

I also read something very interesting. Back in 2009, a number of premiers — Premiers Campbell, Stelmach and Wall, I believe — responded to the Throne Speech back in B.C. to convene a summit for an open skies policy.

I believe you did have that summit back then. A declaration on open skies was signed by Premier Campbell and Premier Stelmach and the premier from Saskatchewan. They were going to coordinate efforts to ensure open skies for Western Canada. Could you tell me a little about what happened there?

Mr. Howard: It was a great summit. As you have indicated, a declaration was signed by three premiers. It was a great bringing together of stakeholders.

Nearing the end of the session, some federal staff took the stage, and it just seemed there were different playbooks. There were different views on how things should proceed. That was the birthplace of my entry into this file, to try to feed off of some of the momentum created by that summit and move it forward. It has been an interesting couple of years.

I do not want this to be frustrated. The federal government has done a lot of good things. Many agreements have been signed and there has been good progress. We want to make sure that the Asia-Pacific gets its due attention because we are looking to the Asia-Pacific to float our boats, to some extent, over the next few years economically.

Senator Doyle: As a new member of the committee, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the open skies policy. You were going to coordinate efforts to ensure open skies for Western Canada. There is not an open skies policy for Western Canada now, is there?

Mr. Howard: No.

Senator Doyle: Did it kind of fall by the wayside?

Mr. Howard: I think the open skies reference was in the three Western provinces getting together to convince the federal government because this is a federal file.

Senator Doyle: It never really got to maturity or fruition?

Mr. Howard: I am still working on it.

Senator Doyle: On another topic here, another witness said that perhaps the federal government should be point man more or less in assessing the needs of individual airports and perhaps providing funding to airports based on the contribution they make to the economy of the country. Is that something that you would look at or be favourable towards? That is, airports such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary being treated differently than airports in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, that kind of thing, when it comes to funding for airports?

Mr. Howard: I would not venture there, but Canada has more of a user-pay system than our biggest competitor, which is the U.S. Canada's airports pay rents; the passengers pay the security charges.

In the U.S., the federal government pays most of that stuff. Our costs are higher to do business in Canada than they are in the U.S. I am not sure, when you look at what is happening down south, that the U.S. will not have to take some steps towards the user-pay system because they are in some financial challenges down there, but we cannot afford to wait. I will talk about the five-year window if the question comes up.

I believe we have to make sure that our airlines are capable of competing. To do that, you have to make sure your cost base does not get too far away from the competitors. There is some work to be done on that side.

Senator Doyle: Thank you.

The Chair: Senator Zimmer had a supplementary.

Senator Zimmer: Rather than ask my question later, I will do a quick summary now. That is a good line of questioning.

I have been working with the United Arab Emirates for over a year and a half to try to get a daily flight. It was blocked. In your opinion, why? Was one airline lobbying against it to block out competition? Was that the answer, in your opinion?

Mr. Howard: The reasons we heard at the time did not really seem to hold water based on my understanding of the file. You will know that they wanted to come to YVR — and I think to Toronto, but YVR is where we looked at it in great detail — and drop people off and go back home. They were not even going beyond. They did a number of studies and a number of jobs were going to be created as a result of that. They even did work that suggested Air Canada would be a net beneficiary because Air Canada and WestJet would have the opportunity to move those people around the rest of the country.

We hear stories about Emirates being state-subsidized. There are many airlines around the world that are state-subsidized; New Zealand is one. We have agreements with New Zealand. I dare say Air Canada has had some involvement with the government over the years as well. Emirates will tell you that they actually return money to their shareholder. More sophisticated accountants than I can attest to that, but that is what they tell us and I have no reason not to believe them.

It was just one of those decisions that did not seem to make sense. The fact pattern did not seem to back it up, and, as I said, we lost as a result.

Senator Zimmer: It must rip your guts out to lose the business to Seattle. I feel for you.

Senator Eaton: Mr. Howard, we have discussed a lot of the issues that you are raising and it is interesting to hear your point of view about them. We are all on your side. We have heard a lot about what you are discussing.

I have been reading your bilateral ASAs. With regard to the federal government’s quashing any blue sky agreement for the Western provinces, was it because there was not going to be reciprocity for WestJet or Air Canada?

Mr. Howard: I do not believe that is the case. Reciprocity is one of the key factors of everything we talk about. The fact is, because it is all done behind closed doors, sometimes we are left to guess. It is difficult to speak with certainty on many issues because everything happens behind closed doors.

Senator Eaton: We had an interesting witness here from the Rotman School of Management who put forward some interesting ideas on how to create more competitiveness for the consumer. Along with things like open skies, he was talking about the right to cabotage, certainly between the gateways. How do you feel about that? Have you thought about that?

Mr. Howard: It opens up an air of complexity on the file. My singular focus is air access, no cabotage. There is so much benefit that can come at that full stop that the rest of the arguments can happen at a later date.

Senator Eaton: You basically think that we do not need to put cabotage on the table, that airlines will be too happy. What will draw them to Canada? Tourism? What will attract Air France, Lufthansa — all these people — to come to our major gateway airports?

Mr. Howard: Our natural resources.

Senator Eaton: That is cargo, right?

Mr. Howard: Yes, but natural resources bring investment and people. In my riding in downtown Richmond, the population is 75 per cent Chinese.

Senator Eaton: You are thinking business?

Mr. Howard: Business, cultural tourism, students. Almost every strategy that we look at has some pretty strong ties these days. It is such a small world these days that aviation has its tentacles everywhere.

The other technical reason is the gateway is the geographical advantage that we have — that is, British Columbia, YVR — as the closest point to the Asia-Pacific. It is physically closer, which is a great advantage.

I hate to keep talking, but the new aircraft coming out, the 787-900 wide-body planes, will be capable of flying point to point almost anywhere around the globe. The gateway will come under pressure because that closest geographical point at some point in the future will become moot. That is another reason why this becomes urgent.

Back to the Air France example, once the airlines make investments in the network, et cetera, it gets kind of sticky. You have an advantage at that point.

Senator Eaton: You do not know whether it is reciprocity that stopped these other airlines from coming in.

Mr. Howard: I do not believe it is reciprocity, from everything I have heard.

Senator Eggleton: I have a couple of questions. Has the two cents per litre that you have decided to eliminate in terms of the fuel tax for international flights made much of a difference in the price of a ticket for a passenger?

Mr. Howard: It will make a difference. It comes in April 1 this year. On a 747 coming from Hong Kong to YVR, it is about $3,300 in fuel, four or five seats; it is a significant dollar per flight. As I have said, the airport has worked with 22 airlines and used that cost reduction partnering with some of their own cost reductions and holding the line to get commitments from 22 different carriers to increase service over the next number of years. I believe the answer will be yes.

Senator Eggleton: You expect they will pass it on to the passengers as opposed to just eating it up in their bottom line?

Mr. Howard: Yes.

Senator Eggleton: Okay. You have given us a couple of good examples of operations that go south of the border, such as Bellingham and Seattle, and create a bleeding-off of your passenger loads in Vancouver. You have given us two good stories, one on the Emirates and one on Air France, who fly into Seattle. However, they use you as part of the marketing, for example, Whistler. First, do you have any other examples of that? Just how big is this whole issue?

Second, you have given a couple of possible remedies. You have talked about reduction or removal of the airport rents and you have talked about the security charge. You are in public office, and you know that quite frequently you do not always get exactly what you want — the whole thing. Is there a step in the process that would help to move in this direction or something that the federal government could do that would help to ease this competition problem with the American airports?

Mr. Howard: Yes. Even within those two points, it does not have to be all or nothing. It could be a rent reduction or it could be a partial reduction in fees. There are steps possible. You may have heard from others that there was a recent conference called “One of Our Airports is Missing,” where they did a fair bit of work on how many of five million passengers on an annual basis are slipping across the border all along the forty-ninth. The equivalent of passengers at the Ottawa airport travel south once a year. It is a very real issue. It is tied into the issue I am talking about, but it is a little different because I am talking more about international access, and this is more about leakage.

I have a few examples, but I will get back to you with more. Icelandair was on our list but we took them off because we were told that the Icelandic agreement opens up in either 2013 or 2014. That is good news, so we took them off our list. I almost left it on the list just as a point of discussion as to why it was there in the first place and why no one knew about it — those kinds of questions.

Xiamen, China, is a sister city of my city of Richmond. They have their own airlines and would like to fly in but cannot do that. I suspect there are a number of others, especially in Asia.

Senator Eggleton: They will set up in the U.S. nearby and market your place as being part of that destination.

Mr. Howard: That is part of the fear, for sure. Some of them have the ability to fly into L.A. and San Francisco and, like Singapore, they just take the traffic there as a matter of business. It should be our traffic, our jobs and our economy.

Senator Mercer: Mr. Howard, being from Richmond, perhaps I should start off by saying ni hao.

You mentioned a sore point for me when you talked about $20 billion being spent on the Pacific Gateway. Senators Greene and Doyle and I would like to see a similar amount spent on the Atlantic Gateway. I do not see that happening; but that is a political comment. I can never pass it up.

We continue to hear from others, and from you in response to Senator Eggleton's question about the reduction of two cents per litre on fuel, that if we reduce taxes, rent, et cetera, and if you build it they will come. However, we still do not have people giving us a clear business case. Tomorrow, there will be a federal budget. I do not know that it will be good news for everyone, but even I have some sympathy for the Minister of Finance tomorrow. If we were to recommend that he eliminate some tax on fuel for airlines and if through the Department of Transport we were to eliminate the rent that airports are paying, he or his successors will still have to determine what the payback is. No one has given us the good business case that says, “If you do this, this will happen.” People talk about it, but no one has demonstrated it. Show me the money.

Mr. Howard: It is a great challenge. It is the right challenge. We have an internationally competitive environment when we look at what is happening in the U.S., Australia and Jordan. There are solid examples of successes that countries have had when they have relaxed their aerospace regulations and gone to a more open skies model. In fact, I should probably say to a more blue skies model. That would be more to the point because if we can understand what national interest means, then what blue skies says is pretty good. As I have already said, when it slips in behind closed doors, the negotiating gets murky or opaque.

We clearly believed that to let go of the $15 million to $20 million that we were earning on the two cents per litre was a good investment. There was a payback in terms of economic growth and diversification. A lot of work is done at UBC that makes at least a higher-level business-model argument.

There are two things that I continue to work on. One is: What does the business model look like? Are we talking about a 5-year payback or a 25-year payback? I am questioned a lot about what this means for Air Canada. Will we put Air Canada at risk? Those are two fundamental issues where work is ongoing.

Senator Mercer: You raised an interesting point in your presentation when you talked about doubling in international students over the next decade. I come from Halifax, where we have four universities and many international students. This is the first time that I have heard the argument of linking the international student population with the use of the airport; and it makes sense.

However, are there any studies from British Columbia? Your market is Asia. Our market in Halifax is also Asia, with respect to international students. We concentrate on China, Hong Kong, and India as well, in terms of trying to recruit international students. Have you done any studies that demonstrate what your goal of doubling international students in the next decade would mean in terms of numbers of seats on flights to and from the locations where the students originate?

Mr. Howard: That is a good question. I would have to look at the details and get back to you. All I know off the top of my head is that each student, depending on the study, generates somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 in economic benefits, but I do not have the actual number of students. I will get it to you.

Senator Mercer: If you have that information, it would be helpful.

Mr. Howard: Sure.

Senator Mercer: They also pay higher tuition, which is also a benefit.

Senator Eggleton: I am kind of new to this study and new to the committee. I notice in your concern about visas, you talk about Canada's Transit Without Visa program for Asian nations. Then there is a separate test trial for China, but I imagine it is along the same lines. What are the four Asian nations?

Mr. Howard: I have that here. Let me look.

Senator Eggleton: The important thing is to know if that works for you fairly well. Do they literally not need a visa? Do they need some other documentation? How does that work?

Mr. Howard: A Beijing to New York flight would stop in Vancouver for fuelling, or some number of passengers might deplane in Vancouver while the rest of the plane goes on to New York. Everybody on the plane needs a visa.

Senator Eggleton: I see. This is just for people in transit, going to another country.

Mr. Howard: That is correct.

Senator Eggleton: I see.

Mr. Howard: The rest of the world does not concern itself quite to the extent that we do, so we have had this test trial going for 10 years with China. There have not been any problems of significance. There is every reason that it should be made permanent and expanded, because there is a huge amount of business available by allowing those planes to land.

Even if they keep the people on the plane, they still need a visa in our country. In other countries, they will hold them on the plane or take them into a secure holding area and then move them back on to that plane, or another one.

Senator Eggleton: I see. These are people going to another destination. However, you are saying that if they are going to the United States — New York or whatever — that they would have to avoid coming to Canada or they may likely avoid coming to Canada even for the aircraft landing because they would need a visa for both.

Mr. Howard: Correct.

Senator Eggleton: I see. Thank you.

The Chair: I have a short question. We have had testimony about the airport at Plattsburgh announcing itself as Montreal's American airport. You mentioned the fact that Seattle announces itself as the gateway to Whistler. Does Bellingham promote itself publicly or from a marketing point of view as Vancouver's or B.C.'s closest American airport?

Mr. Howard: They are certainly active in our marketplace, offering cheaper fares, different choices and cheaper parking. I have heard anecdotal stories that the parking lot in Bellingham is roughly half full with Canadian plates.

The Chair: I was at the conference where you mentioned that our fifth airport is missing. They were talking about the fact that, in B.C., one of the airline companies that goes only to Bellingham promotes sports teams in lower Vancouver. Even though they do not service the Vancouver airport, Allegiant has sponsorship of sports teams. Sorry, an eastern Quebecer does not know about Allegiance. We have not seen Plattsburgh announce sport sponsorships in Quebec yet, but who knows — it might be coming pretty soon in Montreal.

I want to add this because I am reporting on it: They actually wanted to have signs on the buses in Montreal advertising the fact that they were Montreal's second airport. However, the local airport authority told the airport about a little bit of regional solidarity here.

I cut you off before, but my objective is not to limit you. I think we have gone through most of the issues that you had on your page, but if you do have any more comments, there are no more questions.

Mr. Howard: I would just say that the world is moving towards a more open environment with more relaxed air access. Before Canada signed the open skies agreement with the United States — so pre-1994 — there were seven Canada-to-U.S. destinations served by six airlines. After we signed an open skies agreement with the U.S., by 2010, we had 23 destinations served by 14 airlines. It is remarkable growth. There were no disasters. The world did not end.

Other countries, such as the United States, Australia, Jordan and others are enjoying good success stories by having a more open air access philosophy. When we look at Asia and the South Pacific — I do not know if you can see this easily — but from a map, Canada has open skies in this region. I will show you the red. We have them with New Zealand and South Korea, and the United States has them with Uzbekistan, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, et cetera. They are eating our lunch, and it is very difficult on all fronts.

The Chair: Thank you. If you could, we would like to receive a copy of that.

Mr. Howard: Absolutely.

The Chair: You can give it to the clerk because it certainly could be useful for us.

Mr. Howard, thank you very much for your presentation. I think that members really appreciate it. I want to repeat that we are always very happy when we have politicians in front of us.

I would like to remind the audience and honourable senators that our next meeting will take place Tuesday, April 3, at 9:30. Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)

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