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“Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure that Canadians get their refunds, regional communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada and Canadian air carriers maintain their status as key customers of Canada’s aerospace industry,” Allison St. Jean, a spokesperson for Alghabra, said in an email.
The comments come as the Liberal government and airlines discuss potential aid for the sector. Airlines have been vocal about how Canada’s closed borders and strict quarantine rules are suppressing demand for travel.
Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure that Canadians get their refunds
Allison St. Jean, spokesperson for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra
Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, said he wasn’t aware of any “meaningful” negotiations between the government and the airlines.
“All of the major carriers, the governments, have all said: we understand that this is Armageddon — but our government has done nothing,” Dias said by phone. “Air Canada is losing millions a day. I’ve never been one to take the company position but the fact is, they’re losing millions of dollars a day.”
Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, represented about 5,600 Air Canada employees as of March 2020.
Porter Airlines Inc., a smaller Toronto-based carrier focused mainly on commuter routes, is also extending its suspension of service into February thanks to the pandemic.
The collective reduction of flights is becoming a political headache for Trudeau, given it leaves broad swathes of the sprawling nation without convenient air links to major centres. Alghabra was named to the transport post Tuesday in a cabinet shuffle that could be a prelude to an election in which the Liberals hope to win back their parliamentary majority.
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