From Atop Parliament Hill

By ALPA Staff

Last year at this time, parliamentarians were busy wrapping up another hectic legislative session. They were also putting the finishing touches on their Ottawa-based business before returning to their constituencies to kick off the summer BBQ circuit, during what would prove to be a busy season. The reason for such a busy summer was that 2019 was a federal election year in Canada. While the official election campaign didn’t begin until Sept. 11, 2019, the unofficial campaign began months before.

Leading up to the final days of Canada’s 42nd Parliament, ALPA Canada remained fully engaged with government officials and legislators. Once the official campaign kicked off, ALPA Canada reached out to the major political parties, including the Liberal Party, Conservative Party of Canada, New Democratic Party, and Green Party, to determine their positions on the piloting profession and aviation industry in Canada.

On Oct. 21, 2019, election day, Canadians headed to the polls to select their new government. Incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was again able to lead his Liberal Party to electoral victory. However, under Canada’s first-past-the-post system, he was unable to win a clear majority of seats in the House of Commons from the Canadian electorate. This meant Canada’s 43rd Parliament would be led by a minority government, relying on coalitions of support from the other parties represented in the House.

The speech from the throne on Dec. 5, 2019, marked the reopening of Parliament. As parliamentarians returned to Ottawa for the start of a new sitting, ALPA Canada connected with all elected Members of the House of Commons and all Members of the Senate. Capt. Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president, used the occasion to write to all 338 Members of the House of Commons and 105 senators to congratulate them, connecting with new members and welcoming back returning representatives. Perry’s outreach reaffirmed ALPA as the largest aviation safety and security organization in the world and as the voice of the airline piloting profession in Canada. Additionally, ALPA’s annual holiday reception, which coincided with the return of politicians to Ottawa, gave ALPA and parliamentarians the opportunity to come together, reconnect, and talk about the aviation industry and the piloting profession while celebrating the holiday season.

Notable Ministerial Appointments

Ministerial leadership at Transport Canada remained unchanged as Marc Garneau was reappointed minister of Transport shortly after the election. This was welcome news as Minister Garneau’s reappointment brought continuity in leadership and oversight of ongoing initiatives of importance to ALPA members, including the implementation of new pilot fatigue rules as scheduled, and continued oversight of fatigue risk management systems that contribute to the safety of well-rested pilots on the flight deck.

Another key appointment to the cabinet was Filomena Tassi as Labour minister. Over the legislative session, ALPA Canada has been actively engaged with Tassi, representatives from her office, and department officials on several issues. ALPA Canada was actively involved in regulatory consultations regarding new hours-of-work provisions under Part III of the Canada Labour Code (CLC). ALPA Canada vigorously opposed proposed exemptions to the new CLC rules sought by operators that would deny pilots entitlements held by other federally regulated workers. ALPA Canada proposed reasonable modifications to the requested exemption that would accommodate in-flight operational requirements and still allow pilots to maintain the same rights as other Canadian workers.

In January 2020, ALPA Canada kicked off the new year by holding its first board meeting of the year in Ottawa, which included staff from ALPA’s Government Affairs and Communications Departments who held a session on pilot advocacy for master executive council representatives. Attendees discussed pilot advocacy for the upcoming parliamentary session, the importance of social media as an advocacy tool, ALPA’s Constituency Advocate program and the benefits of engaging elected representatives as a constituent, and plans for a day of advocacy on Parliament Hill. The session wrapped up with a panel of invited guests discussing the ins and outs of making an effective and lasting impression when engaging with legislators and their staff, followed by a robust question-and-answer session.

Up until the suspension of Parliament on March 13, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ALPA remained engaged in ongoing work on the B-737 MAX return to service and fought to have pilots participate in the flight and simulator evaluations the government is conducting. Perry was also scheduled to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Communities to discuss the B-737 MAX return to service but was unable to do so when Parliament shut down. While the focus has currently shifted to the pandemic, ALPA’s periodic meetings with senior Transport Canada officials have continued.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Since Parliament’s suspension in March, ALPA leaders and staff have remained fully engaged to ensure that ALPA Canada’s collective voice is heard and that its numerous priorities remain at the forefront. This outreach includes direct contact with the ministers of Finance, Labour, and Transport to express ALPA Canada’s support for the industry’s viability to keep ALPA pilots flying safely during and beyond these difficult and unprecedented times.

ALPA Canada has conducted several meetings with senior Transport Canada officials on issues related to COVID-19, including ALPA Canada’s input into interim orders regarding protective measures such as the exemption of flight crews from various Canadian aviation regulations to permit safe, continuing operations.

In late April, the Special COVID-19 Committee on the pandemic, composed of all Members of the House of Commons, began regularly scheduled meetings in the House to examine the government’s response to the pandemic. Chaired by the speaker of the House, the committee gave members the opportunity to consider ministerial announcements, present petitions, and question ministers, including the prime minister, regarding COVID-19.

The COVID committee met four times per week under a hybrid of in-person and virtual attendance until June 18, when it adjourned. Over the summer months, a number of special sittings in the House (committee of the whole) are scheduled to take place on July 8, July 22, August 12, and August 26.

The resumption of regular parliamentary business is set for September 21. However, it’s possible this date could be pushed back to later in the year or to early 2021 as the government’s focus remains on addressing the effects of the pandemic and Canada’s economic recovery.

Beyond the Pandemic

ALPA Canada leaders have been working with the federal government since the start of the COVID-19 crisis to find common ground on economic protections and solutions for ALPA members and their employers.

ALPA Canada’s efforts in Ottawa will remained focused on two key areas: (1) continuing to be part of the discussion with government to identify ALPA priorities to protect pilot jobs and (2) continuing to be part of the discussion with multiple government entities to identify ALPA priorities to pilot health and welfare.

Perry has been fully engaged during this difficult time, calling on legislators, including the prime minister, to ensure that ALPA Canada’s priorities are front and centre. In a letter to Minister Garneau, Perry reminded him that ALPA is looking to the federal government to “safeguard the public health, limit the economic toll on the airlines and support their swift recovery, and protect the airline workers who help power this important industry.”

Despite ALPA’s continued call on the government to take action to support the financial viability of Canada’s aviation industry, the federal government has yet to announce an airline-specific financial aid package to shelter the industry from the acute effects of COVID-19.

While other countries around the world have moved to support their airline industries, the Canadian government has instead responded with programs such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility programs.

ALPA Canada advocacy initiatives during this time have included Calls to Action to remind parliamentarians of the importance of protecting frontline employees and their families and messages to Garneau, urging the aviation regulatory agency to prioritize worker health and establish an emergency health and safety action plan to avoid dangerous situations for aircrews during crises like COVID-19 and beyond.

Conclusion

As Air Line Pilot goes to press, most parliamentarians aren’t in Ottawa during the last days of the parliamentary session. They’re instead continuing to work from the safety of their homes, like many Canadians who’ve been fortunate enough to do so during the pandemic. It remains to be seen how COVID-19 will affect upcoming sittings and, moreover, the overall operations of Parliament.

It’s clear that the global airline industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic. Unfortunately, it remains unclear at this time whether the Canadian government will provide financial assistance specific to the airline industry.

During the last several months as the COVID-19 pandemic has loomed over Parliament Hill, ALPA Canada leaders and staff have remained focused on communicating ALPA Canada’s priorities to the federal government. Looking beyond the current uncertainty and upheaval in the industry, ALPA Canada will work tirelessly in Ottawa on behalf of all members across the country to stand up for their concerns and advocate for a safe, strong, and viable industry moving forward.


Notable Actions for the Canadian Aviation Industry

June 10, 2019—Transport Canada renews Interim Order No. 2: Respecting Battery-Powered Handheld Lasers for an additional year. Minister of Transport Marc Garneau signs the interim order on June 10, 2019, which remains in effect until June 10, 2020. It’s anticipated that the interim order will be renewed.

June 19, 2019—Canadian government announces the approval of the merger between Canadian North and First Air.

July 15, 2019—First phase of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations takes effect.

July 23, 2019—Minister of Transport Marc Garneau receives a submission from Air Canada and Transat A.T., Inc. regarding proposed purchase of Transat A.T., Inc. by Air Canada.

Dec. 15, 2019—Second phase of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations takes effect.

March 6, 2020—Canadian government proposes amendments to Canadian aviation regulations that would require Canadian-certified airports to extend their current safety area from the existing mandated 60 metres (beyond the runway ends) to 150 metres at the ends of runways that serve scheduled commercial passenger-carrying flights.

March 25, 2020—C-13: An Act Respecting Certain Measures in Response to COVID-19 (COVID-19 Emergency Response Act) receives royal assent.

April 11, 2020—C-14: A Second Act Respecting Certain Measures in Response to COVID-19 (COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No. 2) receives royal assent.

June 3, 2020—Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announces new measures for the use of face coverings in the Canadian transportation sector, expanding the requirements for the use of face coverings by workers and others involved in the transportation system to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

June 10, 2020—Canadian government announces amendments to the Canadian aviation regulations (Part VI, Division II—Aircraft Operating Restrictions and Hazards to Aviation Safety) to make permanent the provisions of the previous interim order concerning battery-powered handheld lasers first announced in 2018, then extended in 2019 to June 10, 2020. The regulations permanently prohibit the possession of handheld lasers with an output power greater than one milliwatt within a 10-kilometre radius from the geometric centre of airports and heliports, and in the municipalities of the Vancouver, B.C.; Toronto, Ont.; and Montréal, Qué., regions.

This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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