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John McKenna
View John McKenna Profile
John McKenna
2020-05-26 15:01
Good afternoon. My name is John McKenna, and I am the president of the Air Transport Association of Canada. I thank you for inviting me to appear before this committee.
I want to switch to French for one second.
For technical reasons, I will speak in English, but I will be happy to answer your questions in the language of your choice.
ATAC has represented Canada's commercial air transport industry since 1934. We have 180 members engaged in commercial aviation, operating in every region of Canada. Our members range from flight training organizations; local air taxis; and regional carriers that serve remote, northern and indigenous communities to very large carriers servicing Canada, the U.S. and international destinations for both business and leisure travel.
We welcome the opportunity to comment on the devastating impact that this pandemic and its containment measures are having on our industry. Although we support the government in its actions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, containment and restrictions on air travel have had a truly horrendous economic impact on most segments of the air transport industry, with traffic and revenue down to less than 10% of usual levels.
Many of our members have ceased operations altogether. Air operators are counting on a financial aid package from the government, while some operators struggle to continue servicing northern and remote communities that rely on air transport for survival.
I believe that a significant number of air operators will probably not survive, unfortunately, and the quality of air services to Canadians will undoubtedly suffer.
Canada is lagging behind, as most foreign governments acted within weeks to come to the aid of their aviation industries, including the U.S.A., Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain and Sweden. Meanwhile, our letters to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Indigenous Services remain unanswered.
Our industry is capital-intensive, with very high fixed costs. While little or no revenue is generated, operators still have to pay for their aircraft through loans or leases, insurance, basic regulation-required airworthiness upkeep, hangars, and parking fees in addition to all the other normal business overhead costs.
So far, the government has tabled the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which can only help pay for a skeleton staff when operations are all but stopped. Canada's large employer emergency financing facility program is interesting, but its $300-million threshold eliminates the vast majority of air carriers. We estimate that only five or six carriers qualify for this program, while over 30 other carriers—key socio-economic enablers in their regions, and critical to Canada's connectivity—are left out.
The Canadian government must recognize the critical role that aviation plays in Canada. Without immediate government help, many Canadian air operators will not be around to provide their critical service and its enabling role in the economy at the beginning of the long recovery when they will be most desperately needed.
The critical government financial aid package would also avoid greater economic damage by ensuring that operators can rapidly scale up when travel restrictions are lifted and quickly contribute to jump-starting the Canadian economy. However, some airlines may require more than loans if they are to continue providing essential service to Canadian communities.
Our industry is facing two major challenges. The first, of course, is short-term survival. The other is the uncertainty of what our market will look like coming out of this crisis, which is best summarized by the following questions: How long before people are willing and able to travel by air again? When will foreign borders open up and remain open? What health and safety restrictions will the government impose on our operations? Will those restrictions make the cost of flying prohibitive?
We expect that the impact of COVID-19 will last much longer than initially thought and that recovery will be very slow—and, unfortunately, even impossible for a number of us.
A comprehensive government action plan will help the air transport industry save over 55,000 direct skilled jobs, and many times that in indirect jobs; maintain essential connections; transport people who require medical treatment; deliver life-preserving supplies; and overall, be a key enabler for the recovery of the Canadian economy.
I thank you for your attention, and I am happy to answer any questions.
View Todd Doherty Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This first question is for all of our witnesses. Just for confirmation, have you, as an individual association or as part of a national association, written letters to our federal government and pertinent ministers and have you received a response, yes or no?
I'll start with Mr. McKenna.
John McKenna
View John McKenna Profile
John McKenna
2020-05-26 15:37
We've written three letters and also supporting emails to the Prime Minister and numerous ministers of Parliament, including the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport. No, we've not received an acknowledgement.
Serge Buy
View Serge Buy Profile
Serge Buy
2020-05-26 15:38
We've written to the federal government, to ministers and ministers' offices. I have to say that we have received replies from political staff. We have not received any definitive reply, though.
Marco D'Angelo
View Marco D'Angelo Profile
Marco D'Angelo
2020-05-26 15:38
Thank you. Our letter went in to the government at the end of March. Conversations are ongoing. We're optimistic that a solution will be here today. We're still working on getting the $400 million we've been calling for.
Stuart Kendrick
View Stuart Kendrick Profile
Stuart Kendrick
2020-05-26 15:38
It's the same. We've sent letters to and had discussions with both the Department of Finance and Transport Canada, with staffers as well as with the minister's office. The jurisdictional response is that it's a provincial issue.
Stéphane Lefebvre
View Stéphane Lefebvre Profile
Stéphane Lefebvre
2020-05-26 15:39
We sent letters to the federal government, specifically to the Department of Transport and the Department of Finance. We received responses, but of course, we have to consider jurisdictions, both provincial and federal. That is where we are now.
View John Barlow Profile
View John Barlow Profile
2020-05-22 14:47
That's right.
Mr. Lehoux sent a letter to your office in February, before the pandemic even began, with some questions regarding temporary foreign workers. He never received a response or even an acknowledgement of that letter, which is concerning for a new member of Parliament. He offered some recommendations on the temporary foreign worker program.
Did you receive that letter?
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
First, I want to say that if we haven't gotten back to him, we will make sure we get back to him as quickly as possible. I acknowledge that it has been a very challenging time for our team and our officials, but we will be sure to get back to him with a response as quickly as possible.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 17 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Today is Wednesday, May 13, at 3 p.m. I know that during this pandemic some of us are losing track of our days and dates, so it's always good to have a reminder.
Today we're going to continue going through the draft report and hopefully adopting the recommendations. This is our last meeting, so we should be through all the recommendations by the end of today's meeting and have a final report that will then have any dissenting or supplementary opinions submitted by tomorrow, Thursday, at 5 p.m., with the translated version.
I want to remind members to make sure to unmute their mikes when they are about to speak.
Obviously we are going to have an informal meeting in order to have some discussion around adopting the report. Basically I'm in your hands as to how you'd like this to work.
I would suggest that we look at each recommendation separately and adopt it, reject it or rework it with a view to adopting it. Then we'll move on to the next recommendation and so on until we've considered each recommendation in the report. I hope this will allow members to debate and decide on the recommendations in an orderly and systematic fashion.
We obviously have no witnesses at today's meeting; however, I want to just let you know that we have received two letters from the Speaker as of late. We received one on May 11, which was brought up in yesterday's meeting, and we received one as of this morning, May 13. The letter was written to the House leader, Mr. Rodriguez, with the committee copied on the letter.
There was an attachment to this letter—four key procedural issues to consider and Standing Orders to consider—so I just want to make sure that everyone has had a chance to maybe look at that letter. You may wish to reference it today in making any suggestions or amendments to the recommendations. I want to alert you to that off the bat. Basically in the correspondence there is a limited number of possible amendments to the current Standing Orders. The Speaker is trying to provide a workable approach when addressing the issue of changing the Standing Orders, given the current circumstances, of course.
We're going to start where we left off yesterday, and that was in the discussion portion of our draft report. I know the clerk also informed us all earlier today that the edits, suggestions and comments that were provided yesterday have all been reworked by our analyst, Andre. They have been incorporated, but they're in translation currently so we don't have that current copy. We're going to be working off of the copy we had yesterday. The version two copy we had yesterday is what we'll be working off of. It has been recirculated today in case anybody needs to reprint it.
We're going to start on page 26.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
We did receive a copy of the Speaker's virtual chamber report. I just want to be really clear, though. It says on there that it is confidential, so I've definitely reviewed the document but I have not spoken about it because it is confidential. I am assuming that it's not part of this report. I just need clarity on that.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, I am assuming that has been written on there just because it was also on our draft report as well at first. I believe the Speaker has submitted it to us so that we can incorporate the suggestions, but we can hear from the clerk on how to move forward or what the right thing is to do in that circumstance.
Justin, there is a question about the letter from the Speaker being confidential.
Justin Vaive
View Justin Vaive Profile
Justin Vaive
2020-05-13 15:08
Yes, hello, Ms. Blaney.
My understanding is that the Speaker and the Clerk's office wanted to share that material with the committee so that committee members would be aware of the contents of the letter as they begin to look at the recommendations for their own PROC report.
Some of the content from the Speaker's letter may be relevant to some of the recommendations that the various members of this committee have put forward, and it might be something to keep in mind as you are considering the draft recommendations today.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Sorry to be a stickler, but I'm going to be because I think what we're talking about really is important.
When I look at that report, one of the things that is said in it is that the administration consulted with more than 30 parliamentarians and collaborated closely with several who share similar requirements, co-testing solutions and so on. Are those parliamentarians Canadian parliamentarians? Are they international? I wasn't clear on that. If they are Canadian parliamentarians, what I understand, at least from the NDP, is that none of our members were included in this process.
One of the things I think is very important as we talk about a virtual Parliament is that working collaboratively together and respecting all the parties is even more important, because we're not in the same area or able to see what everyone is up to. I think it's important that we respect that and that our report reflects that quite honestly, so I need clarity on this as well.
I think one of my challenges right now is that we're getting information at the very last minute, and that makes it harder to get the report done. It puts a lot of stress on the analyst as well. I really agree with Mr. Turnbull. He brought this up yesterday, and I know it was a little bit of a discussion. I was on the other side of that, but it is a little bit hard to be discussing the future of our democracy in this sort of set-up and feel that I don't have all of the information to propose the best solutions.
View Christine Normandin Profile
I would like to clarify the following point.
The French version talks about a consultation with 30 parliaments and not with 30 parliamentarians.
What are we really talking about?
Is it parliaments or parliamentarians?
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