The National Airlines Council of Canada, representing Canada’s largest air carriers, (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet), issued the following statement by President and CEO Mike McNaney, in response to the Fall Economic update presented in the House of Commons today by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland:
As the government has stated on previous occasions over the past several months and repeated in the Economic Statement today, it is still working on establishing a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance.
Thus while other countries around the world moved forward months ago to provide sectoral support for airlines, Canada remains a global outlier and is ostensibly stuck at Stage Zero on the government planning process. This lack of action does not reflect the economic importance of the sector to Canada’s overall recovery, nor the need to ensure Canada’s largest carriers can continue to compete internationally.
Due to the pandemic Canada has lost an astounding 85% of its air connectivity, with flights significantly reduced or eliminated in every region of the country as carriers take every measure possible to preserve finances and remain in operation. While we note the government has affixed a $206 million budget to its support for regional air transportation, the government has yet to provide details of the new Regional Air Transportation Initiative and how such an initiative will, in practice, support the continued existence of regional air services.
NACC members have spent years and invested billions of dollars building regional and international networks to create the level of connectivity needed to support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and in every sector of the economy. Those jobs and investment are now being eroded, as is Canada’s ability to establish an overall path to recovery.
In addition to urgently addressing liquidity, we need the federal government to rapidly move forward with a clear and effective testing regime at airports to support the continued safe restart of the sector and address border and travel restrictions. NACC members and our airport partners have launched testing programs in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver to enable science-based and data-based decision making concerning quarantine and testing measures.
Governments around the world have provided their domestic aviation sectors approximately US$173 Billion in support, precisely because a healthy aviation industry is critical to overall economic recovery. We have also seen countries such as the United Kingdom embracing a science-based approach to testing and reducing quarantine measures.
As other countries continue to provide a clear path forward, now that the Fall Economic Statement has been issued it is time for the federal government to follow the global approach and move urgently to finalize Canada’s path to supporting financial assistance for airlines, and in turn ensure aviation can support Canada’s overall recovery. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in communities large and small across the country, will be impacted by how the government proceeds.