I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 30 of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, February 3, 2022, the committee is meeting to study reducing red tape and costs on rural and urban Canadian airports.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of Thursday, November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
Members of the committee, today we have joining us as witnesses, from Aéroports de Montréal, Martin Massé, vice-president, public affairs and sustainable development; from the Air Transport Association of Canada, John McKenna, president and chief executive officer; from the Calgary Airport Authority, Carmelle Hunka—I hope I pronounced that correctly; if I did not, please take the time to correct me when it's your turn to speak—vice-president, people, risk and general counsel; and from the Vancouver Airport Authority, Trevor Boudreau, manager, government relations.
First I'd like to apologize to our witnesses who are joining us today for starting so late. Unfortunately, votes went long in the House, and we're going to try to make up time as we go.
We'll begin with the opening remarks from Aéroports de Montréal. Mr. Massé, the floor is yours for five minutes.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Like other Canadian airport authorities, Aéroports de Montréal, or ADM, is a community-based non-profit organization. ADM is the airport authority responsible for managing, operating and developing Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, or YUL, and the International Aerocity of Mirabel, or YMX, under a lease entered into with Transport Canada in 1992 that will expire in 2072.
Governed by an independent board of directors consisting of professional and independent managers, ADM receives no government operating grants and generally funds its infrastructure and other projects from its cash flow and debt. ADM has approximately 500 employees at its two airport sites.
Our lease sets forth certain rights and obligations of the parties to ensure that ADM carries out its mission for the community and ultimately provides the Government of Canada with state-of-the-art infrastructure. ADM is also required to submit to various processes, such as the one conducted by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, when it wishes to operate on its land. Those rights and obligations form a whole.
To provide greater Montreal with adequate infrastructure, the Canadian airport model is based on the airport authorities' borrowing capacity for the purpose of making required investments.
ADM is therefore a private corporation that manages public services. Its mission, in a sustainable development perspective, is to connect Montreal to the entire world through the talent and passion of its teams and to provide remarkable, safe and efficient services while developing its facilities and contributing to its community's prosperity with the vitality that characterizes greater Montreal.
ADM intends to succeed in its various operational sectors—airport, property and commercial services—and to operate its two sites to their full potential. To that end, YUL operates as a domestic and international hub for airlines transporting passengers both in and outside Canada. It is the gateway east of the Great Lakes to the regions of Quebec.
YUL was growing fast until the first quarter of 2020 and was committed to providing an efficient platform to its world-class airline and airport services partners. The international service that YUL offers has made it an envied air traffic hub in northeastern North America.
YUL supports more than 50,000 jobs in Quebec and contributes $6.8 billion to the province's nominal gross domestic product. With more than 200 businesses on its site, it's a major driver of economic activity.
In 2019, through 34 carriers, YUL served a total of 152 permanent and seasonal destinations: 90 overseas, 30 in the United States and 32 in Canada, including 13 in Quebec. It was the number 3 airport in Canada with more than 20 million passengers annually and first for the number of passengers travelling to and from a foreign city. Although YUL is already doing as well as it was in 2019, if not better, it isn't expected to return completely to pre-pandemic operational levels and numbers of flight offerings until 2024. After more than two years of pandemic conditions, YUL should quickly return to its previous role.
YMX, on the other hand, is a booming aviation hub whose partners include aerospace industry leaders and world-class businesses. It's also an industrial and logistical hub housing a fast-emerging transportation electrification sector. This duality poses unique challenges for ADM with regard, for example, to the expertise of its teams and additional costs.
ADM thus has to manage two sites with completely different missions and businesses. Despite those differences, no distinction is made in our lease between YUL and YMX, particularly as regards the rent Transport Canada charges. Before 2020, the revenue YUL generated offset YMX's operating deficit. During the pandemic, however, YUL stopped producing enough revenue to cover that expense.
We are also facing other challenges. ADM makes the highest payments in lieu of taxes, or PILT, of all airport authorities in Canada. In 2019. that charge amounted to $36.4 million for YUL alone, which represented 16% of its operating costs and a cost per passenger of $1.79, compared to $1.00 or less for all major airports. With the drastic decline in the number of travellers, that figure rose to $6.44 per passenger in 2020 and $6.65 in 2021. We've been harping on the need to put an end to this unfair situation for years now, without any support from the three orders of government.
In addition to having to bear the maintenance and operating costs of two sites, to pay Transport Canada a single unified rate and to make the highest PILT of all major airports, ADM also inherited the oldest terminal in Canada at its inception 30 years ago. The main body of Montréal-Trudeau International Airport dates back to the 1960s.
In closing, the assistance the federal government provides through the airport critical infrastructure program has been very valuable. Unfortunately, it has now been terminated and no additional funding was announced in the last budget.
However, in the wake of the pandemic, which radically undermined our organization's finances, resulting in additional debt of nearly $1 billion, ADM must continue its investment program to ensure that YUL's infrastructure meets the community's needs. More specifically, ADM must build a Réseau express métropolitain station and finance $500 million of the $600 million total cost of the project. ADM will also have to invest heavily to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus help decarbonize airport operations.
ADM will therefore be facing an enormous challenge over the next decade. Unless the Canadian airport model is reviewed, the requirements that have been added since airports were privatized in the 1990s will have to be examined. The airline industry is facing major challenges as it emerges from the pandemic, but it also has an opportunity to improve the Canadian airport model provided we have the means to do so.
Thank you. Good afternoon.
The Air Transport Association of Canada has represented this country's commercial air transport industry since 1934. Our 175 members are engaged in all levels of commercial aviation and flight training in every region of Canada. Our membership includes very large international and transborder carriers, regional carriers, flight training organizations as well as the Canadian air transport support industry.
The obvious focus for the past two years has been on getting through the pandemic and now on the road to recovery in a vastly different socio-economic environment where consumer behaviour has been forever modified. Not only is it extremely difficult to predict the future demand for air travel, our industry and the travelling public are facing cost increases that could completely alter the demand.
Inefficient government services at the department, within airports' security and at customs are only adding to the chaos. The fact that Canada lagged behind the world in eliminating COVID-related health restrictions certainly has not helped create the winning conditions that we so urgently need.
To limit further serious damage to the air transport industry and to help us work towards full recovery, and thus enable Canada's economic recovery, the government needs to change its attitude towards aviation in Canada. The government must stop thinking of the air transport industry as a revenue stream. No other mode of transport is targeted the way the air transport industry is. Why, on the one hand, does the government draw over $1 billion from fees and charges from aviation, which are not found in any other mode of transport, while on the other hand finance passenger rail in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars?
Total Via Rail passenger count in 2020 was 1.15 million, a 75% drop over 2019, a percentage loss similar to that of air transport in the same period. Yet, Via Rail received operational and capital subsidies of $669 million in 2020, that is $582 per passenger.
Need I remind this committee that Via Rail carries less than five million passengers on a good year as compared to close to 150 million passengers in aviation. One could easily conclude that aviation is subsidizing rail in this country.
To limit the crippling damage to the Canadian air industry, the government needs to implement the following ten recommendations.
One, stop using aviation as a revenue stream.
Two, failing that, at least reinvest aviation-generated revenues back into the aviation sector.
Three, seriously consider regional aviation as a vital link in Canada's connectivity.
Four, invest in regional and northern air infrastructure since the user-pay model just can't sustain operations in these regions that depend almost entirely on aviation. This is the key to their ability to provide the service needed to support the unobstructed flow of passengers throughout Canada. Not only do the remote and northern airports offer a vital socio-economic link to the rest of Canada, but many of them are important feeders of international passengers to and from other Canadian airports.
Five, establish a federally backed funding program for all students attending designated learning institutions offering professional flight training or post-secondary institutions providing Transport Canada-approved air transport maintenance engineer programs that are accredited by the provincial acts, such as the Ontario Private Career Colleges Act. This would help attract the increased number of pilot and maintenance trainees so desperately needed to address future shortages that are already on our doorsteps today.
Six, fix the backlog and processing of student visas and work permits in the world of aviation. This recommendation is for the .
Seven, privatize the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority at no cost to the air transport industry or their passengers. In other words, abandon the idea of imposing a $600‑million price tag for assets already paid for many times over by passengers through the Air Travellers Security Charge.
Eight, consider Nav Canada as an essential service and support it financially should they sustain another such catastrophic drop in revenue because of a national crisis rather than force it to increase fees to air carriers.
Nine, instead of spending money on politically motivated projects, such as high-frequency rail that traffic volumes will never justify nor financially sustain, the government needs to develop, in co-operation with industry, a national air transport policy focused on multimodality. This would yield economic, connectivity and environmental benefits.
Ten and finally, keep in mind that air transport is now a way of life. In fact, it's a way of survival for many. It's not a luxury, but an economic enabler.
Good afternoon, members of the committee.
My name is Carmelle Hunka, and I am a vice-president at the Calgary Airport Authority. I'm very pleased to be before the committee today on behalf of the authority.
I want to open by stating that the experience we provide to guests at YYC Calgary International Airport relies on multiple partners to ensure travellers are provided with a smooth and efficient experience. These include airlines and our government partners, such as Transport Canada, CATSA, CBSA and PHAC. YYC Calgary International Airport has adapted and continues to effectively adapt to changing measures and emerging concerns at airports. Creating positive travel experiences for air passengers involves all partners doing their part.
With this in mind, the Calgary Airport Authority is pleased with the federal government's recent announcements removing mandatory random testing for arriving international air passengers and making the use of the ArriveCAN app and masks optional. The removal of these last restrictions allows Canadians to travel free of restrictions consistent with the rest of the world and allows our industry to be in a strong position to recover.
As with other airports across Canada, the pandemic has had an enormous impact on our operations. In 2019, we welcomed 18 million passengers to the Calgary International Airport and generated $8 billion of GDP, an all-time high. As the pandemic hit, the impact to our airport was catastrophic. Total passenger volume fell to 5.7 million passengers in 2020, and only slightly recovered to 6.3 million passengers in 2021, but we are on the road to recovery.
In 2022, we are estimating that passenger volume will more than double to 14.3 million passengers travelling through our airport over the course of the year, a welcome improvement though still well below the 2019 level of passenger volume. We're proud to report that YYC was the most recovered major airport in Canada with passenger volumes in July and August reaching 2019 passenger volumes. The stronger we are at YYC, the greater our contributions are to the city, the region and the country as a whole.
A huge success story for YYC was the implementation of virtual queuing for our security screening points. Known as YYC Express, virtual queuing involves passengers signing up online up to four days in advance of their flight to secure a space in line at one of our security screening points. This allowed YYC to spread passengers out to some of the less busy screening points during the peak periods, alleviating wait times. YYC Express gives passengers a stated time in the queue providing certainty and minimizing time in the security screening line. YYC Express was very successful, such that now other airports in Canada will be implementing and adopting the technology for their own versions of this virtual queuing.
This virtual queuing was implemented and funded solely by the Calgary Airport Authority. We pay for the staff to manage the queue, to scan the QR codes and to implement the technology associated with the queuing. We funded YYC Express at the same time as we were required to take on almost $300 million in additional debt during the pandemic—an investment in providing a more efficient experience for our guests.
We call on the federal government to invest in technology to assist in the guest experience, such as virtual queuing, improved screening equipment that can provide a seamless experience to travellers, and technology where guests can move through customs and immigration more efficiently.
With respect to the ground lease, we request additional items to ask for a reduction in red tape. First, we recommend modernization of the ground lease compliance requirements. Great administrative expense is expended by airports on an annual basis to meet administrative compliance requirements to demonstrate that we're in compliance with our lease. Most critically, the rent payments the authority makes to the federal government through its ground lease are a significant airport expense. In July and August alone, YYC will pay over $2 million each month in federal rent and receive nothing in return. In 2020, the ground lease payments were waived in response to an unpredictable and drastic decline in customer volume, but the 2021 ground lease payments were only deferred to be paid at a later date. While we welcomed this support, the government's approach to lease payments was not sufficient to offset the continued decline in revenue we experienced as a result of the pandemic.
As its tenant, the authority is looking for the federal government to reinvest its ground lease rent payments back into the airport through investments in environmentally sustainable core infrastructure, and we ask for reintroduction of funding for critical capital projects through the national trade corridors fund or reintroduction of ACIP.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, committee members.
I'm joining you today from Vancouver International Airport, which is located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Musqueam Indian Band. Before I begin, I'd like to pay my respect to elders past and present.
I'm here today to represent the more than 20,000 workers that work at YVR every day.
Today, I offer the following recommendations on how government can support Canada's airports to the benefit of Canadian travellers and our economy. They are framed around: first, improving government processes and addressing regulatory barriers; second, the faster adoption of technology and innovation; and third, partnering with airports to accelerate investments that we are already making to evolve Canada's airports to next-generation economic engines.
Canada's airports are a dynamic ecosystem. We were an industry that expertly operated just-in-time supply chains that moved millions of bags, people and goods through our airports every day, so it has been difficult for our sector to experience the growing pains that we did over the past months.
Today, we're on a path to return to our prepandemic performance, and that is thanks in large part to our dedicated and fantastic workforce, our proactive planning and coordination with other partners and our relentless focus on innovation.
First, on the labour challenge, it's important to note that the airport proper at YVR is a certified living wage employer, and that means we pay our workers a fair wage for our region. In one case, that living wage policy helped us recruit more 80 new frontline workers this spring and have them on the floor in a matter of weeks. More than 600 people applied for those positions to work at YVR.
During the pandemic, we also accelerated our digital transformation and launched a new digital twin platform. This summer, we put that technology into the hands of those frontline workers, and that allowed them to monitor and deploy resources in real time to support travellers, airlines and government agencies when they needed it.
We also partnered with our Canadian airport colleagues and government agencies to quickly develop, test and deploy innovations. Those solutions are driving down wait times today, and they're reducing costs.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the $150 million we will be spending over the next 10 years to become Canada's first net-zero airport by 2030.
How can government support us further?
On our first recommendation, YVR strongly encourages the federal government to remove the regulatory barriers that impede modernization of traveller security screen processes that are currently overseen by CATSA. The reality is that Canada's security screening regulatory structure is outdated and does not allow Canada to evolve to the risk-based approach to passenger security screening that we need today and that we see with our other G7 peer countries.
Specifically, rewriting the security screening measures is needed to start afresh. Importantly, the simplification of these regulations will create the operational flexibility our partners need to improve security throughputs, all without impacting the critical security function that frontline security screeners offer.
Furthermore, there is an urgent need for the Government of Canada to work with the U.S. government and reopen NEXUS enrolment centres in Canada. The NEXUS program has grown significantly over the past several years and is incredibly well subscribed by Canadians, yet today Canadians can't obtain a new NEXUS card, nor can they renew their existing enrolment.
On our second recommendation, YVR has clearly demonstrated how we can use data and digital solutions to improve our operational performance. In addition to launching our own digital twin platform, all of the airports in front of the committee today are collaborating in rolling out new innovations.
I'll draw your attention to the virtual queuing for security screening that Carmelle mentioned just a moment ago. That was piloted at Calgary International Airport and, as Carmelle mentioned, was a tremendous success. It's now going to be launched at all other large airports in Canada very shortly, and I'm proud to announce that YVR Express will be launching next week for our passengers.
There's an immediate opportunity for the federal government to join us to explore further innovations and deploy them quickly.
On our final recommendation, we are going to be living in a supply-constrained world for the next decade. As a result, we need to make significant joint investments in Canada's infrastructure.
At YVR, during the pandemic we identified the need to expand and enhance our cargo and logistics throughput, so we are actively putting $150 million of capital in place right now to expand YVR's air cargo operations, and that is for the benefit of Canadian cargo carriers. Importantly, this $150-million investment will facilitate more than $250 billion in domestic and international trade over the next 20 years. That's significant.
In partnership with airports, indigenous, and other non-government capital, we believe continued federal funding via programs such as the national trade corridors fund will help accelerate our investments.
In conclusion, we are meeting the challenges in front of us while also doing our part to keep air travel affordable and safe for Canadians. We appreciate the committee’s interest in exploring additional ways to reduce red tape and costs.
I look forward to taking your questions. Thank you.
Thank you, witnesses, for being here today to discuss this very important study.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling across this country, visiting many airports, talking with folks on the ground and talking with people in rather rural communities and some of our northern communities as well. I've seen the frustrations in the airports, whether it be lineups, delays, baggage sitting everywhere, not enough security, or problems by not having a NEXUS card. We're seeing that all of these things are contributing to an unhappy experience for many Canadians across this country with travel.
Thankfully, we've seen in recent days that the government is finally having some clarity on getting rid of all of the COVID mandates and dropping COVID mandates so that we can get back to regular travel in Canada. We're also seeing our economy hopefully pick up with international travellers who have been hesitant to come to Canada thanks to having to use the ArriveCAN app or because of the vaccine policy.
I'm not sure who would want to respond to my first question. Maybe some of the airports would.
Sir, you mentioned that YVR is talking about making greater investments. I'm just wondering how the airports plan to deal with the surge in passengers that we're going to see probably very abundantly and very quickly in the coming days with the restrictions removed. I know that a lot of the people I've talked to in other places who have been waiting to come to Canada to visit relatives are very eagerly hoping to get on a plane very quickly.
Could you tell us what you plan to do to help alleviate some of these stresses or what the government could do in the very short term to help alleviate some of the stresses right now?
We're very excited to welcome them back to Canada and to YVR. It's important to acknowledge for the committee that YVR did not experience the significant impacts we saw at other airports across Canada. To a certain degree, that was because of the way air travel did rebound earlier this year, but it was also thanks to some careful planning and investments we made in advance of the pandemic and also during the pandemic. One project we were able to complete during the pandemic was a $300-million expansion of our international arrivals area. That's been helpful for us as we've seen the airplanes rebound.
In our customs hall, we did a lot of work with CBSA and partnered with them quite closely to fit out the customs hall with our kiosk technology. That was an innovation that was developed at YVR a number of years ago. It has actually been rolled out at airports across Canada, including Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Quebec City and others. As we look to greater technology, we are very supportive of moving border processes to outside of the customs hall. Certainly, applications such as ArriveCAN, for its intended use, which is to facilitate advance declarations that everyone has to do when you enter Canada via air, are helpful.
This summer we partnered with CBSA on a platform that is now loaded onto our kiosks that allows for that advance declaration and cuts travellers' wait time in the customs hall by half. Importantly, we see that reduced wait time even for large families where some folks might be technically savvy and have done an advance declaration, but maybe mom and dad don't know how to use technology. The children have to help them. Or perhaps they have small kids; they can facilitate there.
We see a huge opportunity to continue to partner with government agencies on those technology solutions.
Welcome to our guests today.
I just want to note that of course over the past three years of sitting on this committee we have heard many witnesses talk about the airline industry during a very difficult period at the peak of the pandemic. Certainly the airline industry has gone through some very difficult times.
We've seen surprising rebound in terms of the number of people who have started travelling. I'm just curious as to the predictions that maybe the representatives from the airports were making about the future of air travel last year, how long it would take for the airline industry and the airline business to rebound with the demand there is to return to pre-COVID volumes and the rebound we've seen.
From your perspective, what were you predicting? What do you predict for next year or the year after?
I'll start with Mr. Massé and then allow the other two airport representatives to speak as well.
Thank you for your question.
During my first intervention, I was very clear that we were expecting that at the latest the return to prepandemic levels would be 2024. We're already experiencing—and it's probably the same with the other large airports—around 85% to 90%. It will be slightly higher in 2023. We're expecting a return to a 100% in 2024 at the latest.
To add to what my colleagues said, our situations were slightly different because of the pattern of our networks. We are the most international ones. We had a lot of issues with regard to baggage connections, the American borders and the preclearance system and staffing there although not that many in terms of CBSA.
It's also a question of staffing on our partners' side, including airlines, with regard to ground handlers. That's pretty much where the focus has to be put from now on until they recover in 2024 at the latest.
That's an excellent question.
I believe Mr. Boudreau spoke about the salaries offered to airport employees and the raiding that goes on between companies and services. In the end, we serve the same clients, the passengers, and from now on we need to learn to provide better treatment for those who toil in these jobs.
That's why we worked with with employers to introduce staff attendance and retention programs. We want to do something about the chronic shortage of staff in these jobs which, even though they don't necessarily require recognized skills, are essential, as we saw during the summer.
It's important for flight schedules to be followed, not only the team of pilots and flight attendants on the aircraft, but also on the ground, whether by the airline company or an affiliated service provider. The people who come to work must be treated properly.
Not so long ago, we welcomed representatives of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, and some public servants, to the committee. On that occasion, we drew attention to the introduction of new standards for passenger rights and said that we would have liked to make them even stricter. But we also said that we were pleased to see that there had been improvement.
In addition, we raised a potentially interesting point by suggesting that the standard should apply not only to the airline companies, but also to government organizations. The airline companies . after all, ended up being forced to provide a level of service and reliability that the government itself does not provide, which sends a peculiar message.
Do you have any comments on that, Mr. Massé and Mr. McKenna?
I'd like to begin by thanking all our witnesses for their presentations. Obviously, this is a matter of great interest to the committee.
I'd like to start my questioning with Ms. Hunka of Calgary International Airport.
Ms. Hunka, you mentioned the idea of shared responsibility, and I think I heard you say that all partners should do their part. I think this speaks to one of the things we saw during the pandemic, which was the need for accountability. I don't ask this as a trap or as a trick question, but I'm very curious, because we've had a chance as members of the committee to talk to all the different partners in the airport ecosystem.
When we talk about the challenges that were experienced, often we hear that different partners put the onus on other partners. The people who are at the end of the line when it comes to the challenges we saw are, first of all, air passengers who were sleeping on the floors of our airports and, second, workers at the airports who were working under some incredibly challenging conditions.
There are all sorts of different moving parts here. Obviously, it's a complex situation. You have security screening, airports that maintain the infrastructure, and airlines that fly the planes. However, when things fall apart, I think what the air passenger is looking for is some accountability.
How do we create an accountability system? Right now, the CTA has a backlog of 24,000 complaints from air passengers who suffered delays and cancellations. That's just the tip of the iceberg, because those are the folks who managed to get through the complex process of filing an online complaint.
I'd like you to speak about how we create an accountability system so that air passengers are taken care of and don't bear the brunt when we see challenges like the ones we've seen over the past several months.
Thank you very much for that question.
I'm not surprised when we talk about the fact that the experience involves all partners doing their part. It's a joint accountability that we all have together. To the comments that have been made, whether it's an issue at CATSA or an issue at CBSA, for us as the airports, it's a question that comes up.
As the airport, we look at our role as being the facilitator to bring all these partners together for the conversation to make sure that we can provide the service that we need to for the passenger. Going into the summer, we had an event at the Calgary airport. We brought all of CATSA, CBSA, USCBP and PHAC together with our media partners, and we talked about what travel would mean and look like, and what passengers could expect at the airports.
Our investment in YYC Express and virtual queuing demonstrates our commitment to making things work better for our partners. We also need our partners to have good conversations with us and to be open and transparent about some of the information.
One challenge we have with CATSA is that the wait times that CATSA provides and delivers to the public aren't based on the end of the line. They're based on where CATSA starts monitoring and screening, and that's not as transparent. We need that transparency.
We recognize that we're an ecosystem and that it's our joint reputation, but we need the support of our partners at the airport, and the airport will then provide our support back to those partners.
It's very important to us as the airport authority to provide the best experience for our guests, so we invest in making that experience the best, but we need the support of the government. We do need the to be participating, to be investing in the infrastructure, and to be investing in those partners and in those services—investing in better technology to move passengers through CATSA and through the screening points, and not having to take every single item out of your bag in order to proceed. Those are some of the things we would ask for that would create a situation in which the passenger would have that seamless experience.
There are many conversations and many committees. I think what we need to see at this point is some investment in better technologies and in these partnerships so that we can deliver the best experience to the guest.
You're absolutely right; if I'm sleeping on the floor, I'm sending that social media message or taking that picture at the airport. It's our reputation, as airports, that is on the line, and that's why it's so important for us to be having these conversations with government, because we need the support of the government in order to invest.
We are a captive revenue industry. We don't have multiple revenue streams that we can draw from, and we need that support. When we're providing our rent payments and not receiving that investment back in return, that challenges us in our ability to support and go forward.
If Martin and Carmelle are okay with it, maybe I'll start the answer.
I see a couple of nods. Thank you.
Thank you for your question. Indeed, we saw the largest increase in passenger volumes in our 90-year history here at YVR in the span of a number of months. We grew from something like 40,000 passengers a day in February to passengers in May, June, July and August that tipped 65,000 to 70,000 passengers a day. That was a huge volume increase at a time when we were struggling as an ecosystem here at YVR with some staffing shortages and travel measures.
Again, I think it was Mr. Bachrach—or another MP, I'm sorry—who asked what we would say to workers. We say a big “thank you” to everybody who stepped up. Our partners stepped up as quickly as they possibly could.
We had returned before the summer to our prepandemic staffing levels and, indeed, have repatriated almost 100 plus jobs into our airport authority for our guest experience program, but we also saw a tremendous number of people come and volunteer on the floor. When we had our difficult day on the Sunday in August, we had over 500 volunteers come from home that day to help passengers get through just as quickly as possible, to support them, to help them get where they were going, to help them talk to their airlines, to understand a little more and to help ease their concerns, their frustrations and indeed their fear that they might miss a medical appointment or an important family gathering.
That's what I would say.
I will yield my time to Carmelle and Martin.
I can provide a little bit of additional perspective. We definitely are seeing stabilization of some of the labour shortage issues that some of our partners were seeing. At the Calgary airport, we are going to be back up to full staffing at U.S. Customs and Border Protection starting November 1, which was a big issue for us. That was one of the challenges.
We do know that Nav Canada is still dealing with staffing issues and is utilizing overtime to help create the appropriate staffing in the tower, so that continues to be a concern for us.
Certainly we have been fairly consistent. Our biggest challenge is at the Calgary airport, quite honestly, with respect to, I would say, some of the lower skilled types of labour we need. The ground handlers on the ramp were originally getting paid $16 or $17 an hour. Then they would move to the next ground-handling company for $18, and then the next one for $19, so we had a lot of movement.
We're starting to see that stabilize as I believe those organizations have really determined what the appropriate rate is, but wage rates do continue to escalate with inflation, and those continue to present a challenge.
I'll pick up where I left off. If you could give me those 20 seconds, boy, that would be generous.
Mr. Boudreau, you mentioned living wages. I was at YVR and talked to some of the screening officers there around the height of the challenges that we were seeing during the pandemic. What they told me is that being a screening officer at an airport used to be a great job. There's a lot of training and a lot of certification, but it was well paid and well respected. Through contracting out, the quality of those jobs has really gone downhill. Now they are paid a salary that is comparable to other jobs at the airport that don't require you to be in the public eye all the time and to be surveilled. They're having checked bags thrown at them, working short-handed, missing breaks and all of these things. I think you would appreciate that they were under some pretty stressful work conditions. I'd also note that they don't work for the airport directly.
Are we paying screening officers enough? Does the contracting out model threaten those living wages?
Given that Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in Canada, what is a living wage for an airport worker these days?
Here in metro Vancouver, the living wage is $20.52 an hour, which encapsulates both your wages and your benefits. Our living wage policy ensures that, at the very least, all direct airport employees, as well as the service providers we directly contract, are paid a living wage.
On your question around security screeners, I agree with you. No doubt that is a very difficult job. The frontline security screeners provide a critical function in our airport system here in Canada. They do a tremendous job.
Through the summer, when they were challenged, we were there to support them by ensuring that new employees could get their RAICs in less than 14 days and get on the floor so that they could be trained just as soon as possible. They are highly trained and highly skilled workers. It requires some time to get them onto the floor and working at their full potential, but we're doing our part to support them.
When they were challenged by staffing, which created long lines at the airport, we were there to support them in getting folks ready for the screening process, making sure that they didn't have extra liquids in their bags, and making sure that they took out their liquids and were prepared for the process. We tried to make it as smooth as possible.
We encouraged our travellers to be sensitive to the screeners, because they do such an important job here at the airport.
Thank you to all the witnesses today for their testimony.
I would like to ask some further questions of Mr. McKenna.
You talked about the inefficiencies of government services and, almost, how the aviation sector is treated as a cash cow by the government. We appreciate your 10 recommendations. I think those will be helpful as we consider your testimony and the testimony of others in writing this report.
I want to zero in, because this report is about reducing both red tape and costs. There's a massive cost impact that you can see coming down the track that's going to impact, I would think, the aviation sector and airports. That is the tripling of the carbon tax that's being proposed.
I don't know if you have any comment on that, or if you could talk about the economic impact of that on airports and the aviation sector.
Thank you very much, Mr. Iacono.
At Montreal's Trudeau International Airport, The main challenge is not runway capacity. We could very well continue to operate with the two parallel runways until the end of our lease in 2072. In 2019, there were between 220,000 and 225,000 aircraft movements on these two runways. London's Heathrow airport, which has the same configuration, handles 475,000 aircraft movements per year. Runway capacity is therefore not an issue.
For infrastructure as such, there are clearly limits. There are limits on moving walls or maintaining social distancing in the airport as was requested during the pandemic, while still remaining viable. That's why technology and biometrics will make it possible to have more passengers within the same infrastructure. My colleagues discussed this at length. I would add that physical challenges are more of a factor for road or other forms of access to the airport—for example the Metropolitan Express Network—than within the airport site itself.
Thank you very much for the question.
Certainly, the protection of the personal information of guests and passengers is critically important. and the use of those technologies needs to really address that. We need to partner with those organizations that have been successful in making sure they are protecting that technology and have the processes in place to continue to monitor and moderate those technologies as we move forward.
We also need to understand where we are collecting and holding that technology, and where that technology is being utilized for the purposes of moving people through the flows in our airports and then is destroyed and no longer available and no longer accessible. Those are the strategies that I think we would need to be thoughtful about.
We know that is an issue, but I also know that in a lot of these technologies I understand that these technologies aren't collecting and holding the information. It is utilized at a point in time and then it is gone from the system.
Those are the kinds of things that we need to be mindful about.
I want to thank all of the speakers and guests who are here today for their testimony.
As well, I want to take an opportunity to thank all those who work in the sector. I know that it has been a frustrating time, and was longer than we probably needed, but I certainly want to thank them, because a lot of the reasons that people were yelled and screamed at weren't actually their fault: It was basically government rules and regulations.
I want to go back to a comment that I heard a little earlier from Mr. McKenna, I guess, about the government and being a partner. It's often said that the only ship that doesn't sail is a partnership, and I would have to say that in that light, it's what I've heard from you and from many in my riding of Simcoe—Grey.
I have Honda there in the automotive sector, and I have lots of agriculture there. They're saying they're not having the opportunity, that decisions are made without consultation to see exactly how those are going to affect their industries. Can you elaborate on how it has been for you with the ministry? Do you get meetings? What I'm hearing from you is frustration.
I have one other quick question.
I'm close to Toronto, an hour out when it comes to cross-border flights, and I am going to Florida if all goes well—fingers crossed—this year, hopefully. On the number of people who are crossing the border, I don't know if there's something we need to do. I think it's important, in terms of what was said earlier about essential services, for businesses and everything involved in the airport industry, and we need to look at it in a different light.
Are you losing a lot? How do you compete with the fact that where I am, it's that much cheaper to cross down to Buffalo, and if you look all across Canada at the borders, you must be losing quite a bit of revenue from that.