From Atop Parliament Hill

By ALPA Staff

This time last year, parliamentarians had already put Canada’s 43rd session of Parliament behind them and turned their attention to the campaign trail ahead of another federal election, the second in two years. Throughout Canada’s 43rd Parliament and during the campaign, ALPA Canada remained fully engaged with government officials and legislators.

As in previous federal elections once the official campaign began, ALPA Canada reached out to the political parties, including the Liberal Party of Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, New Democratic Party, Green Party of Canada, and Bloc Québécois to determine their positions and policies regarding the piloting profession and aviation industry in Canada.

On Sept. 20, 2021, Canadians headed to the polls to select their new government. Incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to lead his Liberal Party to another 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. For the second election in a row, the Trudeau government didn’t win the plurality of votes. As in the previous Parliament, Canada’s 44th Parliament would be led by a minority government, relying on coalitions of support from the other parties in the House of Commons to pass legislation.

In October, Trudeau announced his cabinet with Minister Omar Alghabra remaining as Transport minister and Seamus O’Regan appointed the new minister of Labour. ALPA Canada promptly connected with both ministers and their staff to promote ALPA Canada and pilot priorities. ALPA Canada also congratulated all returning and newly elected members of Parliament and detailed ALPA’s priorities and concerns.

In late November, Parliament reopened with a Speech from the Throne, delivered by Governor General Mary Simon, which outlined the government’s new vision and legislative agenda for Canada’s 44th Parliament. Since then, the Canadian government has implemented many policies and programs that have directly impacted ALPA members and the industry.

Over the past year, ALPA Canada has continued to address the impact of legislation, regulations, policies, and programs with the federal government and has remained focused on how best to handle the continuing impact of the pandemic on the industry and its workers and promote the industry’s ongoing recovery, growth, and sustainability postpandemic.

ALPA Canada has also promoted key pilot issues with members of Parliament and senators and their impact on the profession and the industry. Equally important, ALPA Canada has provided the solutions needed to move them forward.

Discussions with government officials include the issues of medical licencing, ongoing travel restrictions, airport improvement fees imposed on commuting pilots, pilot supply and foreign pilots, the implementation of flight- and duty-time regulations, and the appropriate interpretation and implementation of Canadian aviation regulations.

Engagement on ALPA Priorities

Engagement with legislators to advance key priorities for ALPA pilots is always front and centre for ALPA Canada. The nature and volume of engagement over the last two years have been unprecedented.

ALPA Canada continues to work with the federal government to find common ground on economic protections and solutions for ALPA members and their employers. ALPA Canada’s efforts in Ottawa focus on increasing participation in discussions with the government to promote ALPA priorities that will protect pilot jobs and the health and safety of ALPA pilots.

Legislation and Regulations

Over the last year, ALPA has provided feedback to the government on all legislative and regulatory proposals affecting its members and the industry. ALPA’s interventions have shaped government policy to benefit the health and safety of ALPA members in Canada.

Mandatory Vaccination

As of Oct. 30, 2021, employers in the federally regulated transportation sector were required to have in place vaccination policies for their employees. ALPA Canada made the case to the government that since vaccination had become a condition of employment for individuals working in the airline sector, it was redundant to require operators to address these individuals and for employees of regulated entities to have to be subject to random verifications of proof of vaccination.

In December, the minister of Labour announced he would move forward with regulations under the Canada Labour Code to make vaccination mandatory in all federally regulated workplaces. ALPA Canada immediately contacted the minister’s office to convey its concerns regarding these proposed regulations and on the mandatory vaccination policy imposed on employers. This June, after frequent discussions with the minister’s office, the federal government announced the suspension of vaccination requirements for federally regulated transportation sectors and federal government employees. The federal government also announced its decision not to proceed with regulations mandating vaccination for federally regulated employees. The change in direction by the federal government is a direct result of ALPA Canada’s strong response and continued engagement.

Modifications to Hours-of-Work Provisions

In February, ALPA gave feedback to the government through consultations with officials at Employment and Social Development Canada on the proposed regulations amending the exemptions from and modifications to hours-of-work provisions and fought against the request from operators that pilots be exempted from the right to a 30-minute break during every five consecutive hours of work. In recognition of potential operational challenges to employers to implement the regulation, ALPA Canada provided a modified solution—two 15-minute breaks for every period of five hours. This modification is reflected in the final regulatory package that took effect this February.

Transport Canada Consultations on Proposed Airline Acquisitions

The federal government consults with industry stakeholders regarding merger/acquisition transactions. As in past airline merger consultations, ALPA Canada was asked to provide feedback on the proposed WestJet Airlines/Sunwing Airlines merger. ALPA Canada met with Transport Canada to relay its concerns that bargaining units won’t be afforded the security and continuity of their respective collective bargaining agreements or that they’ll be undermined by the proposed new entity. ALPA has been clear that the government must impose on the parties their assurances that existing agreements for all bargaining units are respected before any acquisition is approved.

ALPA Canada also insisted that the federal government requires the preservation of employment numbers for all units given that the parties, as per the Transport Canada consultation document, “have identified the proposed acquisition will provide public-interest benefits through a number of ways, including crew optimization and improved efficiencies in operating costs.”

ALPA Canada has been clear that it supports a competitive and efficient industry—which includes more reliable service for passengers and a decrease in the industry’s carbon footprint—but not when it comes at the expense of pilot jobs or the health and safety of pilots.

While the final decision is still pending, ALPA Canada will continue to engage with the federal government to ensure its members are represented and that their collective agreements are protected with this and any future airline mergers that impact ALPA members.

Committee Business

In February, the chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Communities presented two aviation-related reports in the House of Commons: “Emerging from the Crisis: A Study of the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Air Transport Sector” and “A Study of Aircraft Certification in Canada in Light of Two Accidents Involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.”

The reports included recommendations pulled from testimony from Capt. Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president, on ALPA’s key priorities for the piloting profession “that the government of Canada work with industry and labour groups to devise a recovery plan for the aviation sector; that the government of Canada work with public health, the industry, and labour groups to establish an aviation restart strategy; that any financial relief provided by the government of Canada to the aviation sector, as part of its restart strategy, be directly tied to protecting jobs and rehiring workers; and that the minister of Transport work closely with union representatives in devising and negotiating sectoral support for the aviation industry.”

In discussions with the federal government, whether with minister, his staff, or departmental officials, ALPA Canada stresses the need to consult with labour associations, like ALPA Canada, when it comes to the policies and regulations that impact the profession and livelihoods of ALPA Canada members.

Advocating with Government Leaders for Pilot-Partisan Policy

With the airline industry well into post-COVID-19 recovery, ALPA members have continued to take action to defend and support their profession and their industry. They’ve continued to answer the call to collectively communicate pilot priorities and issues with all parliamentarians.

ALPA Canada’s Calls to Action since August 2021 have resulted in outreach to every member of Parliament, including relevant ministers and House and Senate committees on many occasions—through tweets, e-mails, and virtual meetings—and on several issues affecting the industry and the profession.

ALPA Canada members continue to demonstrate leadership in promoting and defending the industry and the piloting profession by calling on the government regarding issues such as the necessity for an industry restart plan, the importance of consulting with labour associations like ALPA Canada and their members who work in the industry and are subject-matter experts, assistance to pilots who’ve been detained in the Dominican Republic, opposition to airlines that have requested exemptions to flight- and duty-time regulations, and the use of foreign pilots on Canadian flight decks.

ALPA Canada members continue to proactively support their profession and industry by amplifying ALPA Canada’s message to their federal officials. They’ve established ALPA as the leading voice of the piloting profession in Canada.

Remaining Focused

ALPA Canada leaders and staff have remained focused on communicating ALPA Canada’s priorities to the federal government. Looking beyond the current uncertainty and challenges in the industry, ALPA Canada continues to work tirelessly in Ottawa and across the country on behalf of all members to address their concerns and advocate for a safe, strong, and viable industry moving forward.

This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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