Evidence of meeting #19 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was airports.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Joseph Sparling  President, Air North
Monette Pasher  Interim President, Canadian Airports Council
Anthony Norejko  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Business Aviation Association
Robin Guy  Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Glenn Priestley  Executive Director, Northern Air Transport Association
Julian Roberts  President and Chief Executive Officer, Pascan Inc.
Yani Gagnon  Executive Vice-President, Pascan Inc.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Unfortunately, Mr. Rogers, we don't have time to hear the response to that wonderful question. However, I invite Ms. Pasher to perhaps submit that response in a brief or by email.

Now we go to Ms. Sinclair‑Desgagné.

Ms. Sinclair‑Desgagné, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.

12:10 p.m.

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné

Thank you very much.

I'd like to quickly circle back to what Mr. Roberts and Mr. Gagnon said, specifically Mr. Roberts. During his presentation, Mr. Roberts gave several examples of a cost structure that may be unfair to smaller carriers. I'd like to hear more from him on that.

12:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Pascan Inc.

Julian Roberts

Thank you very much.

Airport fees in general include landing fees, terminal fees, terminal improvement fees and security-related fees. Flying a large jet in the Quebec regions—it wouldn't really be practical, since the population size wouldn't justify it—would cost me less than flying a small regional plane.

For example, here are a few numbers: if I fly a plane carrying 30 passengers, landing in Dorval costs me $240, but if I fly a jet carrying more than 100 passengers, the fee is $306. That's a considerable difference between the two in terms of cost per seat.

12:10 p.m.

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné

Can you explain to us why it is so lopsided?

12:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Pascan Inc.

Julian Roberts

What we've noted and heard over the years is there should be a minimum fee. In our case, those fees are very close to what larger carriers pay. For us, it's the same thing when it comes to NAV CANADA. We pay $1,486 for a 33‑seat aircraft. If I were flying a 143‑seat jet, say a Boeing 737‑700, the fee would be $2,006 per day. That's less than a $600 difference, but I could carry four times as many passengers.

Given these conditions, the cost per passenger is really quite high. For every PASCAN customer, the money comes in and we pay it out. Up to 40% of the ticket value simply goes to fees and taxes.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Thank you very much, Mr. Roberts.

Thank you, Ms. Sinclair‑Desgagné.

Next we have Mr. Bachrach.

The floor is yours. You have two and a half minutes.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I think I'll stay with Mr. Roberts because I'm interested in the same issue, particularly as I represent a rural region where regional airlines are trying to serve rural passengers and at times face disproportionate costs.

Mr. Roberts, could you speak to what structural changes or changes in regulation you feel would address these inequities that are hurting smaller carriers when it comes to the airport costs that are imposed?

12:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Pascan Inc.

Julian Roberts

One thing, really quickly, that could be done is that we bring it down to per seat, not per aircraft weight or aircraft size. If everybody's paying the same per seat, it's equitable.

Just to give you an example, we started to fly out of the Dorval Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport to be able to give our regions access to international flights. We started our operation there last summer. The first thing we received was a $20,000 bill monthly to have access to de-icing in the winter. This is a monthly charge of $20,000.

I found out that I'm paying the exact same fee per month as Air Canada Rouge. I'm flying a 33-seater aircraft. It just doesn't make any sense. That amount per passenger, for me, it's just out of control, and people in the regions are always saying it doesn't make sense. They can't fly from a region to a city centre for less than they can fly all the way to Paris. They're right, but the cost structure is just so huge, and the farther we get out in the regions, the more expensive things become. The fuel goes higher. We could be paying today $1.80 a litre here in Montreal versus in Gaspé we're paying $3.15 per litre.

It's just no longer feasible. If it continues this way we will not be able to continue to operate, and I know I'm not speaking for just Pascan. This is an issue all across Canada for any regional operator.

Another issue that we're seeing, and I talked about it earlier, is that with a lot of the things that have come out of the federal government over the years follow a one-size-fits-all rule. They're going to put a rule in place. They're going to make a law and, okay, it's for aviation, without taking into consideration that there are a lot of different levels of aviation. You have Air Canada aviation, then you have Jazz-level operations and then you have small regional carriers.

The flight and duty regulations that were put in place by Mr. Garneau, they were one-size-fits-all, so now, and I think it was Mr. Sparling who mentioned earlier.... Last year I could take a pilot flying from Montreal to Fermont, and he could do the return trip in one day. Now he can't. I have to leave those guys in Fermont all day long. They spend the whole night. They can only fly out the next afternoon. I'm telling you, they're not less tired. They're more tired than they were before.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Thank you very much, Mr. Roberts. Unfortunately, we're out of time for that segment.

Next we have Mr. Dowdall.

Mr. Dowdall, the floor is yours for five minutes.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I too want to thank everyone for being here today on this important topic. From what I've heard so far from all of the speakers, I would say if a few words could sum it up, they would be frustration and deep concern for the industry, moving forward.

I thought it was a good question that my colleague, Mr. Jeneroux, had earlier about something that could be done quickly. I think it was Ms. Pasher who said that it was the COVID restrictions, but I know in my riding I hear a lot of people telling me, both on ArriveCAN and also on the COVID restrictions, that they just don't want to bother going at this particular moment in time.

I'm just wondering. First, do you think that would change the number of people who would want to travel, and second, to everyone who's on this, what's one easy thing we could do to get the industries up and running today?

May 16th, 2022 / 12:20 p.m.

Interim President, Canadian Airports Council

Monette Pasher

I think we're certainly seeing that there's a lot of pent-up demand for travel, which is great news and I think we don't want to hurt that at a time when we need it most in our recovery, both airlines and airports and our entire tourism industry.

There are a number of actions that could be taken. One is getting testing out of our airports, and the other is looking at some of these legacy Public Health Agency of Canada protocols and what is no longer needed or how they could be streamlined in order to facilitate people coming into our country more quickly. It would normally take 30 seconds to process a passenger. It can take up to two minutes, and when you multiply that by the number of people who are coming through our hubs, it's just going to become increasingly challenging. I think there are a number of measures, such as increasing staffing, but we really can't manage these health protocols as aviation ramps up even further.

That's a big one and the other is staffing for CATSA services.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Yes, and all those extra costs, whether it's the carbon tax, anything like that, if it's not competitive on the other side.... I live an hour from Pearson, two hours from Buffalo, and I can't believe now how many people drive to Buffalo. It seems like a common thing.

12:20 p.m.

Interim President, Canadian Airports Council

Monette Pasher

Yes, and that's not a message we want to send for our transportation assets. We really want to make sure that we're competitive and that we're operating efficiently, and we're certainly working with the government very closely on that. The minister has struck a number of working groups.

We're working with our airline and our government agency partners to make sure that we address this as quickly as possible.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Thanks.

Did anyone else want to comment? Is there one thing we could do now that would really help?

12:20 p.m.

Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Robin Guy

I think you mentioned the ArriveCAN app. I'll take the opportunity to provide a quick response on that.

I said in my previous comments that we should be doing anything to help facilitate travel. In terms of the ArriveCAN app, it's important that the government work to promote the app. That's still a major concern. People are arriving and don't necessarily know that they have to fill in the information.

I think we need to make it as accessible as possible, if this is the way we're going forward, and make sure that people are aware of the requirements.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

I see that Anthony has his hand up.

12:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Business Aviation Association

Anthony Norejko

I appreciate that.

What I would say right away is that it's timely. Canada ranks 107th for price competitiveness. The World Economic Forum did a tourism competitiveness report in 2019. Those measures were ticket taxes and airport charges. Fuel price levels were one of the areas as well. We rank 40th in promotion of travel and tourism.

What's the one thing we can do? We need to take a look at the COVID measures.

For instance, for rural and urban airports, in addition to the upgauging issues—the folks at Pascan deeply share their stories—we have to look at the impact of some of the COVID measures. In particular, there are about four million Canadians who cannot travel, even within the country, because they can't get aboard the aircraft.

CBSA and that international border right now are the main issue. We need to solve the integration of ArriveCAN and recognize that not everybody who comes to Canada comes on the airlines. We want to encourage tourism. We want to encourage the economic engine that this country has.

Definitely, CBSA and the COVID measures are critical right now.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

That's an excellent suggestion, Mr. Norejko.

Is that it, Mr. Chair? I think that's five minutes.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

You have 20 seconds left.

Mr. Priestley's hand is up, so I'll turn the floor over to him, if that's okay with you, Mr. Dowdall.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Sure.

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Northern Air Transport Association

Glenn Priestley

Thank you.

I'd like to bring up the accommodation. In terms of the vaccination mandate, we went along with it. We are all working together.

At my conference last week, every operator—we represent all 40 operators in the north—has a real story to tell about workers sitting at home who once worked in the aviation business. The irony can't be lost. Some of these workers, just to find work, are now vaccine-exempted to work on flood or fire control. They now get to go back on board the same airplane they once fixed, but had to get laid off that job because they weren't vaccinated. They're still not vaccinated, but they can get on board the airplane to go fight a fire. This is the type of problem we need to solve.

This is also slowing things down. If we can't fix the airplane, if we can't service the airplane....

I was in Pearson this weekend, coming back from Yellowknife. The people getting off the airplanes were not wearing masks, to a degree. The Americans weren't wearing them at all. We need to get this under control.

Air Canada had a two-hour delay, because they couldn't find ground personnel. There are a lot of people out there.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Thank you very much, Mr. Priestley.

Thank you very much, Mr. Dowdall.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Thank you.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Schiefke

Our next speaker is Ms. Koutrakis.

Ms. Koutrakis, you have five minutes.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all our witnesses for being here and for your very important testimony this morning.

I want to continue with the long delays at the airports. I want to share a personal story and I want to correct some of the comments that were made earlier when my colleague Mr. Jeneroux was quoting our minister. This has received a lot of media attention, and I think it merits correcting.

I think what our minister was trying to get at is that it's not only one issue causing lineups at the airports. To his comments that the delays due to rusty travellers, passengers.... I can attest that, having been a witness. I was travelling from Quebec City to Ottawa two weekends ago, and I noticed quite a few times that a CATSA representative came to the front and reminded all of us to please remember to remove the liquids from our bags if we were bringing them on board and to remove electronic devices, because all of this delays the process.

I think that was the point our minister was trying to make with his comments. Certainly, he was not trying to place the blame on the passengers.

With that in mind, I was wondering if Ms. Pasher, Mr. Guy and Mr. Norejko would offer some comments. Is Canada the only part of the world seeing long delays at the airports? What are we seeing in other jurisdictions currently?