Addressing the Air Canada Act
Before I get on to the main subject of today’s column, I do want to briefly address the issue of the MP pay raise. I do not think MPs needed or need more money. I do not set my own rate of pay. That’s not how it works. Funding decision are made by the majority, and every MP is paid the same amount. Your editor is clearly mistaken if he wishes to hold an opposition MP to account for a decision that I did not make.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to address the House of Commons on the government’s proposed changes to the Air Canada Participation Act. It’s actually a lot more interesting than the title sounds.
In 1988-89, Air Canada was privatized. In the context of that privatization, the government imposed four key conditions, one of which was that it had to maintain operational and overhaul centres in three Canadian cities.
Invariably, when conditions are applied to the sale of something, the conditions affect the price. The conditions applied to the Air Canada shares would have reduced their value, producing a lower return for taxpayers.
As a matter of basic fairness to taxpayers and workers, you would expect that any subsequent removal of these conditions would not come for free. But the government announced at the end of March that they would be legislating away the condition, allowing Air Canada to outsource the overhaul centres out of Canada. As a result of this legislation, workers and taxpayers are being cheated.
And here is some interesting context — on Feb. 17, Air Canada announced that it had started negotiations with Bombardier to purchase C-Series aircrafts, a significant acquisition that they had not previously expressed interest in. Then, on March 8, the minister made known he was pulling the conditions around Air Canada keeping jobs in Canada.
We don’t know who discussed what with whom — but we do know that Air Canada is receiving the free removal of a condition of its privatization, and at the same time, they are exploring a previously unplanned purchase from Bombardier. During the debate on this bill, the government kept referring obliquely to Bombardier, but won’t explain the connection.
What is going on here? Bombardier had asked for a government bailout. I suspect that the government knows that a direct bailout of Bombardier is unlikely to be acceptable to the public — therefore, the government is passing legislation which effectively does the “next best thing.” The benefit of the removal of conditions flows from the government to Air Canada, and the benefit of a previously unplanned large purchase flows from Air Canada to Bombardier.
Jobs will be lost, but Bombardier will get their money. This is not fair to workers or taxpayers, but is quite revealing about the way this government does business.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Editor’s note: Genuis refused to speak to the News about MP pay raises, despite numerous interview requests.
Published: Thursday, April 21, 2016