An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (refund – cancelled air service)

An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (refund – cancelled air service)

Sponsor

Xavier Barsalou-Duval  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Oct. 23, 2020

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-249.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Transportation Act in order to add a declaratory provision specifying that the carrier who cancels an air service must refund the passenger for the air service not received.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian WorkersBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 9th, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Today in the House, we are debating the motion moved by the Conservative Party, which is calling on the government to do a number of things, including introducing in the next federal budget a number of measures to support workers in the highly impacted hospitality, tourism and charitable sectors; providing repayable loans to airlines with certain conditions; and improving support programs for small and medium businesses to prevent bankruptcies.

The Bloc Québécois has looked at the motion and, generally speaking, finds that what is being proposed is rather interesting and positive. However, we did not find it particularly ambitious, but it is difficult to be against apple pie. We might even say that the Conservatives are working with and helping the Liberals.

The Conservatives are asking for certain measures to be included in the next budget. We have heard that the government is not in a hurry to table a budget. They have not tabled one in two years and the Liberals do not seem to be in a hurry, which is something we have not seen in 50 years.

Canada is the only G7 country that has yet to table a budget. The Liberals think that they can do whatever they want. They seem to think that they are accountable to no one and that they do not need to share their plans. They prefer to have carte blanche and announce flawed programs at the last minute that need to be adopted quickly every time, which we find problematic. We are pushed to ram through flawed programs and then come back to Parliament to vote on something else. It never ends.

Why not propose real programs, a real budget and a real process for analyzing things and asking questions? The Liberals always do things willy-nilly. We would do things differently, but the Liberals seem to like this approach since they keep using it.

The Liberals have also forgotten that they are a minority government. Quebeckers should beware because if the Liberals are acting this way when they have a minority, imagine what they would be like with a majority. It would be unbelievable.

Let us come back to the Conservatives' motion. One of the things that interests me in particular as transport critic is support for the airline industry. I think it is good that the official opposition party's motion calls for such support.

I repeat: The Liberals have forgotten that they are a minority government and act as though they have a majority. Today the Conservatives moved a motion that I am sure will have full support from everyone. The Conservatives are becoming increasingly less ambitious here in Ottawa, especially with respect to the airline industry. The Conservatives are calling for this industry to receive assistance, and we agree, as, I believe, do all of the parties.

Parliament has shown a willingness to provide similar assistance to the airline industry, but the problem is that the government twiddles its thumbs and does not follow through. This pandemic has been going on for almost a year, and the government has yet to do anything for this sector. We are one of the only G7 countries that has not helped its airline industry because our government is twiddling its thumbs.

We also agree with the conditions set out in the motion. However, the Conservatives do not seem to have tried very hard, as it once again looks as though they just copied what the Liberals said.

In November, the government finally announced more or less the same thing as what the Conservatives are asking for. In other words, it said that it might, in fact, provide support for the aerospace industry, but such support would be conditional on ticket refunds and the potential return of Air Canada or at least some other airlines to the regions. What we are seeing in the Conservative motion is basically the same thing. I will have an opportunity to talk more about the return of national airlines, such as Air Canada, to the regions later.

For now, let us talk about the announcement the government made last November. In November, we had been in the midst of the pandemic for eight months. We had been badgering the Liberals in committee and in the House of Commons for eight months. We tabled a petition signed by 33,000 people. We also introduced Bill C-249 to refund cancelled air service. Eight months had gone by, but Ottawa still had not done anything. The transport minister at the time, who has since been transferred because I think the Liberals had had enough of having him there, finally conceded and announced that he might do something, that it had come to that.

Here we are, March 9, and nothing has happened yet. We were already at wit's end in November. We thought they had finally gotten the message and that the whole issue would be resolved in a week or two, especially since they had already given some indication of where they were headed and what they wanted to do.

However, nothing happened in December. In January, they said it was in the pipeline, but still nothing happened. Nothing happened in February either. Now it is March, and we were treated to a big reveal last week. The Liberals set up a leak to let us know that Air Canada has finally agreed to refund tickets in exchange for government assistance. It is not a done deal yet, though. Today is March 9, and the pandemic has been with us for a year, but all we are entitled to is leaks. That is unbelievable.

This government does not appear to have any backbone whatsoever. Over the past year, it could have brought in the rules, conditions, programs and proposed assistance and insisted on refunds as quickly as possible. Instead, we are dealing with a government that is paralyzed and incapable of doing what needs to be done. The government should not have to beg Air Canada to do the right thing and obey the law. Refunding passengers is neither a favour nor optional; it is an obligation.

Instead of taking action, the government decided to leak information. Consumers are fed up; they have been waiting for a year. Airlines have been getting an interest-free loan for the past year on the backs of consumers, who paid money for services that were never delivered. Meanwhile, consumers have had to pay the balance on the credit cards used to purchase those trips. Anyone who decided not to pay their balance in full will pay dearly for it, a lot more than the airlines, because balances climb quickly when the interest rate is 20% per month, and that is tough on budgets. Meanwhile, the government remains paralyzed and is basically doing nothing.

Beyond air fare refunds, we have our own set of conditions for helping the airlines, including some that are in the Conservatives' motion, namely, introducing restrictions on executive compensation, imposing a ban on paying dividends or share buybacks, prohibiting outsourcing and layoffs, and maintaining contracts with local businesses and workers. We have to stop laying off people here at home and sending our jobs offshore. We must also stop the recall of travel agent commissions. We believe these are basic conditions.

We do, however, have a problem with the last item. It does not make sense for Air Canada to abandon the regional connections. Air Canada has eliminated 30 destinations across the country, completely abandoning our regional carriers who had continued doing their job. When Air Canada was there, we know that it regularly did incredible things, temporarily dropping its prices before—

Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020Government Orders

January 26th, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Montarville for his outstanding speech. I was very touched by his testimony and the letter he read. When the government does not get the message, it is important to do something and find other ways to get the message across, and this was a good one.

I am going to focus on one particular aspect of the economic update, namely transportation, my critic portfolio. We know that the COVID‑19 pandemic has really had a negative impact on the transportation industry, specifically air transportation, which is experiencing a serious crisis.

We had high expectations for the economic update, and we were really hoping for something major, since we had been promised for months that there would be help for air transportation. On reading the economic update, however, specifically the section on the air sector on page 32, we learned that the government was simply going to continue negotiating with the airlines to establish a financial assistance process. I was floored.

Air sector workers have been struggling since March. They are out of work, with no income. The government has been saying for months that it will find a way to help them by talking to the companies and by taking action, but it turns out those were nothing but empty promises. This economic update is from November 30. It was bad enough in November, but today is January 26. It is almost March and nothing has happened. All these workers will have been out of work for a year, yet there is still no assistance for air transportation.

It gets worse. Many people had purchased plane tickets but never received refunds. The government did absolutely nothing to defend them or protect them. However, page 32 of that economic statement says that “the government will ensure Canadians are refunded for cancelled flights.” That is good news, but it had already been announced way back on November 8.

On that date, the then transport minister released a statement in which he promised that, before the government spent even one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, it would ensure that Canadians got their refunds. Nevertheless, today, January 26, 2021, travellers have still not been refunded. As a result, yesterday, a court delivered an initial ruling and ordered an airline to refund a couple from Rimouski, Quebec.

It is unfortunate that the current government is not doing anything about this critical situation and that people are suffering because of it. It is particularly disappointing because the government is supposed to govern and make decisions when the situation warrants it. We, on this side of the House, are putting pressure on the government, pushing it to take action. We tabled a petition signed by 33,000 people calling on the government to comply and require refunds for travellers. We introduced Bill C-249 to reiterate that travellers have the right to be refunded.

A new Minister of Transport was recently appointed, perhaps to cover up for his predecessor's incompetence, and he immediately said that he would continue to seek a solution so that travellers get refunded. We are pleased with his initial reaction, but a solution already exists. All the government has to do is pass Bill C‑249 and order airlines to refund travellers. The government has never really told the airlines that. Instead, it prefers to repeat that it is looking for a solution and working on the issue. This is not complicated. When a service is not provided, the consumer needs to be refunded. That is the law, and it just makes sense. If I order a pizza and it never gets delivered, that is too bad, but I will get a refund. That is how it should be.

I am flabbergasted at the government's complete lack of action on urgent issues affecting people's daily lives. I spoke about tickets and about unemployed workers who are struggling, but there is also the fact that the government's actions with regard to air transportation have been rather inconsistent.

The government is telling people not to travel and has been repeating that for the past few days and weeks, but it is not actually doing anything to stop people from travelling.

On January 2, the day after New Year's Day, people who had spent Christmas without their families and without gathering with loved ones, as they would have liked to do, found out that people who had decided to take non-essential trips south or elsewhere around the globe qualified for $1,000 in compensation from the government. This is unbelievable, and it is frustrating, too.

It took a while for the government to wake up and realize that maybe it needed to do something. It finally decided to take action, but it said its measures would only start in January, so they would not apply to people who had travelled before January. It is wrong to reward people who did not follow public health guidelines.

The same applies to border control. There is still no ban on non-essential travel, even though this has been a problem for several months now. It is nearly February, and this is still a problem. There is still no monitoring of people in quarantine. The only measure is automated calls where people press a number to indicate they are complying with the quarantine. It is frankly absurd. Even people who chose to travel have criticized the situation, saying it is ridiculous. That is the kind of job the federal government is doing.

In the meantime, customs officers are not very busy at the border, so they could help with monitoring people in quarantine.

The Government of Quebec is asking for help in getting the authorization and additional powers to do what the federal government is not doing, namely monitoring quarantine enforcement at the border.

A month after Christmas, the government still has not made a decision on a sector in crisis. That is unacceptable to me.

The economic update also addresses the issue of regional air transportation. It is nice that the government realizes that there is a problem. Again, the problem has been going on for months. In March, Air Canada announced, brutally and without warning, that it was cutting 30 regional routes. The regions' first reaction was to say good riddance. They were fed up with seeing the airline disrepect the competition, cancel flights without notice and slash prices only to jack them back up. The regions decided to find another solution. In Quebec, they decided to establish a group to look at the problem with the Union des municipalités du Québec, the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, tourism associations and the Government of Quebec and come up with solutions.

Do you know what happened? They asked the Minister of Transport to come and meet with them, to talk to them and listen to what they had to say. However, the Minister of Transport did not even bother to meet with them. In the middle of the crisis, 30 regional routes have been cut and certain regions of Quebec are now without service, but the Minister of Transport is so familiar with the problem that he does not need to listen to them. He does not need to hear from mayors, businesses, or the tourism industry. He does not even need to hear from the Quebec government.

In fact, that is what the Minister of Revenue and member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine said when we toured her riding over the summer. I heard her on the radio saying that we see the trees, but the minister saw the forest. He is so familiar with it that he does not even need to talk to people. That is serious.

This frustration of not being able to talk to the minister is something that I heard from the airline industry. The airports were not able to talk to the minister, the airlines were not able to talk to the minister, and the pilots were not able to talk to the minister. No one was able to talk to the minister, and the minister did nothing. At some point, people got fed up. It is frustrating. I think that this is part of the reason for the change of minister.

We hope that the new minister will make some changes and that the government will get a move on, because this is a bad situation. A government that does absolutely nothing and makes no decisions is a very bad thing.

Worse still, here is one of the first things that happened in the regional air transportation sector after the crisis. Nav Canada was having trouble making ends meet, so it decided to jack up its fees by 30%. When Nav Canada asked the minister for help, the minister told it to figure things out and charge airlines that were already struggling 30% more for its services. In turn, airlines raised ticket prices, so fewer people travelled by plane. It is all nonsensical. To top it off, there is no more regional transportation.

The same thing happened with airports. The government made a big deal about rent relief for airports, but that was only for large airports. What people do not know is that rent relief is based on fees. If there is no money coming in, there is no rent to pay. The same goes for the airport assistance program. Much was made of investment assistance, but that does not help pay the bills. If they do not have any money, how are they supposed to invest?

That is what I wanted to say about the government's treatment of the air sector in its economic update. It is very disappointing indeed.

December 8th, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

President, Air Passenger Rights

Dr. Gábor Lukács

The air passenger protection regulations created a false sense of confidence. They never were meant to work; they were designed to fail. Certainly what we see now undermines further passenger and customer confidence.

Bill C-249 is going to fix just the basics. The most important principle in every commercial transaction, that if you don't receive what you paid for, you get your money back, is a vital step for the entire sector's recovery.

December 8th, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

President, Air Passenger Rights

Dr. Gábor Lukács

Currently there's a private member's bill by Mr. Barsalou-Duval, Bill C-249, which was tabled earlier. I understand that your predecessor may also be working on something similar.

The effect of this bill is that it would declare that the law has always been that passengers are entitled to a refund when an airline cancels a flight for any reason, whether it's within or outside the airline's control.

The one change that I would like to see in the bill is this: Instead of having this within the summary of the bill, it be moved it into the actual text of the statute to avoid any doubt. What we have seen now is that airlines will try to use every excuse not to repay passengers. Making clear that this bill is declaratory will settle once and for all this debate. It will ensure that it is clear to everyone that the law has always meant that when an airline cancels a flight for any reason and doesn't provide passengers with a service that passengers have paid for, passengers have to get that money back.

December 8th, 2020 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Executive Director and General Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre

John Lawford

That's a good question. I don't have a study for you. I can say that in similar situations, telecommunications monthly bills, for example, have to go up by 50¢ to cover subsidies for, say, rural telephone service. It's probably along that kind of line. You'd get a 50¢ or $1 charge, something like that, per airline ticket. I don't know. I have to admit I haven't done the numbers.

Either way, it's going to come out of airlines, which will then pass it on, I'm sure, to consumers, whether it's a new rule, like from Bill C-249, or whether it's a fund.

December 8th, 2020 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Executive Director and General Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre

John Lawford

Thank you.

I would just add that, were a court or the CTA, via a sweeping decision, to come to that conclusion, our constituents would not be happy, and we would be supporting a bill like Bill C-249 to change the law. Thank you.

December 8th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Thank you very much.

A few weeks ago, in Parliament, I introduced Bill C-249, which stresses the obligation of airlines to reimburse passengers when the airlines don't render the service the passengers have paid for.

Would you say it would be good if the House of Commons passed this bill?

December 8th, 2020 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Sylvie De Bellefeuille Lawyer, Budget and Legal Advisor, Option consommateurs

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee. Thank you for giving us this opportunity today to share our observations with you.

I have been working as a lawyer at Option consommateurs for 10 years. Created in 1983, Option consommateurs is a non-profit association whose mission is to help consumers and defend their rights. As such, we receive thousands of legal information requests every year from people experiencing difficulties with merchants, including in the travel industry.

Furthermore, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have received a record number of calls and emails from consumers not only from Quebec, but also from elsewhere in Canada, asking us for information to get their plane tickets refunded.

This is the situation we want to talk to you about today. To us, the situation is very clear: Canadian consumers whose flights were cancelled because of the pandemic must be reimbursed.

Although the pandemic has been difficult for everyone—both consumers and merchants—its impact is not the suspension of applicable laws. The solution offered by most airlines, travel credits, is unacceptable and unfair.

We think it is high time for federal authorities to play their role and protect Canadian consumers.

Under the pretext of force majeure, airlines have assumed the right to keep clients' money without providing them the service they paid for. So far, both the Canadian Transportation Agency and the government have limited themselves to maintaining that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations do not oblige airlines to reimburse their clients for cancelled flights.

However, it is important to specify that those regulations are not exclusive or comprehensive in their provision of all the obligations airlines have. Other laws and regulations impose restrictive obligations and grant the authorities the power to take action.

For example, the Transportation Act and its relevant regulations give the CTA the power to get involved, especially when a tariff contains an unreasonable condition. Yet we are struggling to see how, in a law society, it could be considered reasonable for a business to impose a condition on consumers whereby it can keep their money without being obliged to provide them with the service they paid for.

However, there is more to this. Airline contracts are also subject to provincial laws. In Quebec, where we are the most familiar with the legislation, both the Quebec Civil Code and the Consumer Protection Act contain provisions that make it clear that airlines have the obligation to refund their clients for flights that had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

We don't understand why the government is silent on this issue. Both the government and the CTA must enforce the laws and regulations and force airlines to refund their clients.

What is more, a declaratory bill—in other words, Bill C-249—was recently introduced in the House of Commons. That bill reiterates passengers' right to be reimbursed for flights that are cancelled for reasons beyond the control of the carrier.

The travel credits offered by airlines in no case constitute a valid solution in the current context, where households' financial health is being tested.

Since the beginning of the crisis, we have received hundreds of calls from consumers who are worried, disappointed and irritated about being unable to get their money back—often in the thousands of dollars—while they need it. We have actually launched a petition to force airlines to reimburse consumers. That petition has garnered 32,000 signatures.

We are being told that airlines are facing revenue losses owing to the pandemic. We don't doubt that. However, this pandemic has also hit industries other than the air transportation industry. It is not up to consumers to fund airline companies.

Many consumers are struggling to keep their heads above water. The measures implemented to help families have certainly been a great help, but they do not ensure the financial health of households over the long term. People need their money, and they need it now.

It is clear that consumers are being manipulated in this case. On the one hand, airlines are saying they cannot refund tickets without government assistance. On the other hand, the government says it is prepared to negotiate assistance, but assistance that would be conditional on consumers being reimbursed. During this time, nothing has been happening. It is high time for things to change.

Thank you.

December 8th, 2020 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

President, Air Passenger Rights

Dr. Gábor Lukács

In the past months, we have seen lawlessness displace order and regulatory capture displace good government. It may fall upon the courts to restore order. However, it is your mandate as elected representatives to restore good government and to put an end to the agency's running amok.

Declaratory legislation such as Bill C-249 is needed to restore public confidence and the rule of law.

Thank you.

November 5th, 2020 / 5 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Regional air transport is essential to the economic development of these regions. You cannot decide to close the airports in the Quebec regions. It is absolutely unthinkable, and I hope you will understand that.

I have one last question for you. I recently tabled Bill C-249 to ensure that passengers who purchased a ticket and did not receive service get a refund.

Will I be able to count on your support for this bill?

Canada Transportation ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2020 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-249, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (refund – cancelled air service).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Jean, for supporting the introduction of this important bill today. This bill is the product of months of work with consumer groups as well.

I thought it was important to introduce this bill on behalf of regular people who bought plane tickets and are entitled to a refund. The Minister of Transport's response is ambiguous. He does not seem prepared to tell them that they are entitled to a refund even though the law says they are. This bill answers that question, reaffirming that passengers are entitled to a refund.

I hope that I will have the support of many members of the House. I am quite confident that we will get substantial support.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)