Any time you hear about the government doing the bidding of corporate Canada so they can be ‘more competitive’, you can pretty much be assured you are hearing the story of jobs leaving Canada. In the same vein, politicians who go on and on about our ‘ability to compete’ are usually selling out Canadian workers and hiding behind faded patriotism. For the record, there was a lot of both in the House of Commons this week as the Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act (C-10) was debated.
If C-10 sounds boring and innocuous in title, it’s nothing like that in practice. That’s because it excuses Air Canada from breaking the law retroactively and all but confirms the shrinking presence of that carrier as a driving force in Canada’s flagging aerospace industry.
This goes back to 1988, when the Air Canada Public Participation Act was drafted to facilitate the privatization of Air Canada. Among the conditions it set was the requirement that Air Canada keep its aircraft maintenance operations in the cities of Winnipeg, Mississauga, and Montreal. Fast forward to 2012, and the aerospace company Aveos goes bankrupt. That company had come into being as a result of the sale of Air Canada’s technical services division and employed people in Quebec and Manitoba. The Aveos bankruptcy cost Canada 2,600 aerospace jobs and Air Canada was seen as the primary culprit.
In the wake of the bankruptcy, the Government of Quebec and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers filed suit against Air Canada for violating the ACPPA. The Government of Manitoba also filed a similar suit against Air Canada following the closure of the Aveos service centre in the province. In 2013, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of the province and the IAMAW. The ruling was upheld by the Quebec Court of Appeal in November 2015. This led to Air Canada filing for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
But now Air Canada won’t have to worry about that appeal. The Liberals are using their majority to ram C-10 through parliament and corporate Canada will have won another victory. The Liberals are using all sorts of arguments and excuses to say it is really not fair in terms of competition that Air Canada is required to do its maintenance here. That thinking shows they have no plan to protect the aerospace industry in Canada.
We should remember this as we consider how well suited this government is to deal with Bombardier. That company is asking for billions in public investment for their aerospace division. Will the Liberals pony up the cash with no conditions? Will they set conditions that can be ignored without consequence? C-10 makes all these scenarios much more probable than they may have seemed a few months back. It also makes it hard to find any daylight between the Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives when it comes to economic files.
Before he was Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau stood alongside aerospace workers saying he would fight to keep these jobs in Canada. Now he’s giving those jobs away for the benefit of his corporate friends as his government employs slogans to defend themselves from this sell-out.