Still waiting – but for how long?

Still waiting - but for how long?

Ivana Saula
Research Director

Six months ago, talks between the federal government and airline companies began over financial aid for air transportation. As soon as the impact of COVID-19 was evident, the IAM began a continuous lobbying effort for assistance for aviation and air transportation. Also, over the last year, one by one, governments around the world announced aid specifically for the airlines. In Canada, we’re still waiting.

A recent announcement revealed that another aid package would be made available, but it may surprise you that the focus of financial aid is the music industry and to the tune of $ 2.5 million. Like so many others, workers in this industry have been impacted by months-long shut downs and other restrictions that have paralyzed live music events. Thousands of workers’ lives across Canada have been upheaved, and by that measure, any aid package that helps workers is welcome.

But, why is it taking so long to agree on a deal for air transportation, considering that 3.2% of Canada’s GDP comes from air transport?  The industry in Canada alone contributes $51.4 billion to the country’s GDP and supports approximately 633,000 jobs. Spending by foreign tourists supports another $16.7 billion of GDP, making a total contribution of $68.1 billion[1]. Let’s not forget that air transportation also supports industries like aerospace, tourism, hospitality, culture and the arts, and entertainment.

While two separate levels of government are responsible for the two industries, the lack of a plan for air transportation, despite calls on the federal government by both industry and labour, is perplexing.

The urgency of the need is clear, but the obstacle to providing an aid package isn’t. Some airlines and the government have been in talks over financial aid. However, while the feds have been slow to react, airlines have seemingly refused to meet stipulations outlined by the government in exchange for public money.

How much longer this stalemate will continue is unclear, but one thing is certain: workers and communities continue to suffer in uncertainty over what the future will bring. Funding must be made available, and on terms that serve workers and the public. At this critical time, airline companies and the government must keep in mind the bigger picture, set differences aside, as waiting and procrastinating on a package could lead us to a situation where there may not be an industry to save.

[1] IATA “IATA Appeals to Canadian Government for Immediate Relief for Airlines in Face of COVID-19 Crisis”