January 21, 2021
The Honourable Omar Alghabra, P.C, M.P., Minister of Transport
The Honourable Bill Blair, P.C, M.P., Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C. M.P., Minister of Health
The Honourable Marc Garneau, P.C. M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Marco Mendicino, P.C. M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Mr. Iain Stewart, President, Public Health Agency of Canada
Dear Ministers & Mr. Stewart:
We are writing concerning the statements by the Prime Minister on January 19, 2021, that additional measures may be implemented concerning airline travel to and from Canada, as a result of the pandemic.
We firmly believe that the most effective path forward for the continued safe operation of the aviation sector lies with a robust testing regime that is tied to science- and data-based decision-making concerning quarantine measures and border restrictions. Such an approach will enable the industry to avoid even further job losses that will be caused by additional travel restrictions, ensure the sector is effectively positioned to safely restart and recover from the pandemic, and enable the eventual free flow of trade, goods and commerce that Canada relies upon, thus providing hope to the tens of thousands of aviation employees who have already lost their jobs.
As the government has noted, to date less than 2% of all cases reported in Canada are from those who travelled outside of the country, and since September on a monthly basis cases associated with international travel have represented 1% or less of infection. Health agencies in Canada and globally have also publicly recognized the low risk of transmission onboard aircraft, including for international travel. In addition, as a result of massive reductions in service and ongoing border and travel restrictions, international arrivals in Canada have already been reduced by a staggering 90%. These measures, along with the commensurate precipitous decline in service and passengers, were not in place at the beginning of 2020, a reality that must be remembered as questions are raised about international travel in the coming months.
Having said the above, as the government considers potentially new measures impacting aviation, we are requesting that industry and labour groups be involved in such deliberations as soon as possible.
As you are aware, the implementation of the pre-departure testing regime placed a great deal of strain on the industry as we sought to implement the new requirements in the span of one week, working with officials at a feverish pace to develop the necessary regulations and guidance material.
Over the course of the pandemic, industry, labour, and government have for the most part worked effectively to implement a myriad of new regulations designed to continue to protect employee, passenger and public health. Aside from the pre-departure testing policy, this work has been characterized by direct engagement with industry as early as possible in the conceptual development of new measures.
Airlines and airline employees are the front line implementors of these ongoing policy changes. All steps must be taken to ensure any pandemic-related measures are implemented in a collaborative manner – with the involvement of the industry and labour groups at the earliest stages of development – to assure effective outcomes for all involved.
As our devastated industry waits for the government to address the liquidity needs of the sector, we will continue our engagement with the government in support of a fulsome testing strategy that draws from procedures in other countries as well as the ongoing work of the International Civil Aviation Organization as it continues to develop global best practices in conjunction with leading member countries, including Canada.
In conjunction with this work, we must also ensure that government engagement with the sector is
occurring in real time as new measures are contemplated.
Rob Giguere, CEO, ACPA
Tim Perry, President, ALPA Canada
Jerry Dias, President, Unifor
Mike McNaney, President & CEO, NACC
Wesley Lesosky, President, Airline Division of CUPE