Legislative and Political Report

Peter Janhunen, Publications Manager
Air Line Pilot
, February 2005, p.30

Focus on Canada

ALPA leaders court politicians, other officials. 

Senior ALPA leaders and key staff spent the better part of a week in Ottawa in mid-December 2004, focusing on issues of concern to airline pilots in Canada. The highlight of the week was a well-attended reception for members of Parliament and senior government officials, who braved an inch of ice (which only the U.S. contingent noticed) to hear from the Association's officials. 

"A number of universal challenges are facing all pilots in North America," ALPA's president, Capt. Duane Woerth, said. "But unique factors also confront Canadian pilots and the carriers for which they fly." 

Capt. Woerth was on hand to meet with key Members of Parliament, including the Hon. Jim Karygiannis, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. Capt. Woerth also had frank discussions with senior officials from government agencies and aviation associations, including Capt. Merlin Preuss, Director General of Civil Aviation; Charlie Simpson, acting chairman of the Transportation Safety Board; Peter Boag, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada; and Rich Gage, president and CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association. 

"ALPA is the most respected voice of the piloting profession in Canada," explained Capt. Kent Hardisty, an ALPA executive vice-president and president of the ALPA Canada Board. "Everyone who matters understands the expertise, wisdom, and political strength we have earned--and tonight's impressive showing made that clear." More than politics was on the agenda, however. The new pilot leaders of ALPA's Air Safety Structure held one of their ongoing roundtable discussions, this one with ALPA Canadian safety representatives. ALPA's Executive Air Safety Chairman, Capt. Terry McVenes, and Vice-Chairman, Capt. Rory Kay, learned firsthand about the issues on the minds of pilots in Canada--including the ongoing fight to bring land-and-hold-short operations (LAHSO) under some semblance of control, the Transport Canada decision to authorize B-737 operations with limited frost on the wings from cold soaking, and the continued access for pilots to ATC recordings when faced with regulatory enforcement action. "Canadian pilots are integral to the ALPA Air Safety Structure on both sides of the border," Capt. McVenes explained. "While the tactics we use to address issues may differ depending on the country, the issues themselves are the same."

Meanwhile, ALPA Engineering and Air Safety Department staff were busy meeting with officials from all key Canadian federal agencies and other industrial groups--strengthening ties and building rapport for future initiatives. These meetings included discussions with Capt. Preuss; senior representatives of the Transportation Safety Board, including Terry Burtch, director general of investigation operations, and Nick Stoss, director of air investigations; and Kathy Fox, NavCanada vice-president for operations. 

Capts. Woerth and Hardisty also spent some time sharing their vision for ALPA's agenda in Canada with members of the news media. Together they made clear that ALPA remains committed to Canada and that the ALPA approach to solving pilot problems is comprehensive, holistic, and complex. A few highlights of that agenda follow:

Canadian pilots require Canadian solutions 

Capts. Woerth and Hardisty made clear that what has been tried elsewhere, particularly in the United States, given the size of its market, is not necessarily the way to proceed in Canada. A "Made in Canada" solution is required, one that breaks the destructive cycle of a series of low-cost carriers entering the market, skimming the cream off the top, and leaving the established carriers scrambling for the rest. ALPA advocates that the Canadian government adopt a model that monitors market entry and competition more closely. 

As part of this model, ALPA strongly believes that the government in Canada should conduct a comprehensive review of aviation policy in consultation with all stakeholders. Capts. Woerth and Hardisty stressed above all else that ALPA opposes further liberalization of the air transportation industry. 

This position is critical because Transport Minister Lapierre has asked the Standing Committee on Transport to conduct a review of whether Canada should further liberalize economic regulation of the airline industry. ALPA believes the effectiveness of the whole air transportation system in Canada needs to be reviewed in its entirety and that a comprehensive reform process must be undertaken. 

"Focusing solely on liberalization is not the answer," Capt. Woerth stressed. 

Capts. Woerth and Hardisty made clear that the Canadian government's permitting foreign airlines to conduct cabotage operations in Canada would be impractical and unwise. Competition from foreign operators between large market centers would damage the viability of operations to smaller markets, for instance. The Canadian cargo industry has said that it would quickly go out of business if cargo cabotage was permitted in any form. That would leave the nation unable to marshal its own resources within its own borders. 

The two ALPA officials also stressed that airlines in Canada must remain in the control of Canadian entities. They said that changes to foreign ownership rules should be considered only if the current aviation policy framework has clearly failed to provide for a viable, competitive domestic market. Even then, they added, changes should include safeguards to protect Canadians and the economy.

"Levelling the playing field" 

In ALPA's view, a healthy and viable industry is one that is profitable, accessible, affordable, and stable. Therefore, to promote a healthy, competitive airline industry that operates both in the best interests of the workers in the industry and the Canadian traveling public, Capts. Woerth and Hardisty outlined several recommendations: 

--that the federal fuel excise tax be eliminated; 

--that the federal government cease to collect rents from airports and that those savings be passed on to airlines and the traveling public; 

--that airport legislation be passed to ensure that airport authorities are transparent and accountable, and that an appeal mechanism exists for inappropriate or unfair fee increases--airport authorities need to be accountable and subject to oversight; and 

--that Parliament pass legislation that would require airports and NavCanada to have a system of protection or insurance from fee increases during downturns in the economy. The time to fix this problem is when times are good. "Save for a rainy day."