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Cannon hints at more changes at airport security agency 

[PoliticsWatch updated 4:30 p.m., January 26, 2007]

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon.

OTTAWA  — A week after the chair of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority's board stepped down, Transport Minister Lawrence Canada hinted that more changes could be coming.    

"In the coming weeks, I will be announcing further appointments to the CATSA board of directors to replace members whose terms have expired," Cannon told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa. 

"Given the considerable challenges required from the CATSA board over the coming months, I have also asked current board members to clarify their intentions to assure myself that these individuals are still willing to devote time and energy to their duties."

Former army general Maurice Baril resigned as chair of the board a few days after he and Cannon met to discuss the findings of a special examination by the Auditor General of CATSA's management practices. 

That report raised, in Cannon's opinion, "two significant findings" regarding the agency's management systems and practices related to security screening operations. The minister said he was "concerned" about the "serious issues" raised by the auditor general. 

According to Cannon, Baril left because he said he could "no longer devote the time and energy necessary" to fulfill his duties. 

Cannon has asked the board to prepare an action plan to correct the problems discovered by the auditor general and said the amount of work involved with that plan is the reason why he wants current board members to clarify their intentions. 

"This action plan is going to require some more time and more energy," he said. "So therefore ... I have asked the people whether or not they do want to commit to that time and that professionalism that is going to be required over the next couple of months."

Cannon made his first change to the board on Friday when he announced that Baril will be replaced in the interim by Margaret Purdy, a security expert who has come out of retirement. 

Transport Canada officials says CATSA's board is comprised of 11 members. There are currently two vacancies -- Baril and another board member who announced plans to step down before the holidays.  

Cannon's office later told PoliticsWatch by email that of the 11 members, airport representatives nominate two, and two are nominated by airline representatives.

Five directors' terms have expired, under the Financial Administration Act, but they will continue to sit as directors "until they are replaced or re-appointed."
 
When asked by PoliticsWatch if he thought the Auditor General needed to conduct a further review of CATSA, Cannon expressed confidence in the mandatory reviews currently in place.  

"This is a nascent organization," he said of the agency created after 9/11. "On a statutory basis, the auditor general does do examinations on a five-year basis.
 
"This is all normal procedure that has been undertaken."

:  Related Links

> Harper government renews contracts for security firm after screening skipped at Pearson

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