Last Friday (Jan. 15), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the new Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, in a mandate letter, asking him to mark certain commitments as a priority.
The first priority commitment that is mentioned is to work on measures concerning the air transport sector, instructing that Canadians be reimbursed for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.
"Recognizing the unique impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian air travel network, work with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and with the support of the Special Representative for the Prairies, on measures for the air travel sector that: ensure Canadians get refunds for air travel cancelled due to the pandemic, promote Canada’s green and innovative aerospace sector, sustain regional air infrastructure, support regional economic development and enable growth in other key sectors such as tourism," the letter reads.
The document specifies that the Minister of Transport will have to implement this commitment as a priority by working with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance [Chrystia Freeland], the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry [François -Philippe Champagne] and the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages [Mélanie Joly], and with the support of the Special Representative for the Prairies [Jim Carr].
"Before we spend one penny..."
The reimbursement of consumers whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic was not part of Trudeau's 2019 mandate letter for the previous Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, before the pandemic.
Last November, however, Minister Garneau declared that the government intended to an assistance package for for air carriers, airports and the aerospace sector - measures accompanied by “strict conditions," among which reimbursement of cancelled flights.
"Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds," said Garneau at that time.
Garneau also said Ottawa will ensure Canadians and regional communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada, and that Canadian air carriers maintain their status as key customers of Canada's aerospace industry.
The assistance package announced in November has yet to materialize.
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