By macleans.ca - Friday, October 14, 2011 - 19 Comments
Official opposition claims labour minister received perks from Air Canada CEO
The NDP is calling for a formal investigation into conflict-of-interest allegations involving Labour Minister Lisa Raitt after it was reported she accepted a free seat upgrade from Air Canada CEO and executive vice-president Duncan Dee. The upgrade, worth about
$550 $450, took Raitt from economy to business class, and occurred on Sept. 25. Raitt’s chief of staff, Douglas Smith, reportedly received the same perk on Oct. 10. Raitt’s office has denied the upgrades ever took place. The accusation comes after Raitt moved to block a strike by Air Canada’s flight attendants earlier this week.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 9 Comments
Lisa Raitt explains her decision to refer Air Canada’s dispute with its flight attendants to the Industrial Relations Board, thus preventing a planned strike.
“Our government received a strong mandate to protect the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs, so we have been closely following the negotiations between Air Canada and CUPE,” said Minister Raitt. “I have asked the CIRB to review the situation at Air Canada to ensure that the health and safety of the public will not be impacted, and to determine how best to maintain and secure industrial peace and promote conditions that are favourable to the settlement of industrial disputes.”
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 5:45 PM - 6 Comments
Strike ‘rendered illegal’ by federal government: union
The union representing Air Canada’s flight attendants have cancelled the strike that was planned for Thursday in light of the federal government’s decision to refer the dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). “[Labour Minister Lisa Raitt] has effectively rendered the strike illegal, so that there will be no right to strike (or lock-out),” the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 6,800 flight attendants said. “Our strike is suspended indefinitely. Therefore, the union advises you that you cannot strike.” Though CUPE had initially said it would go ahead with the strike despite the federal government’s interference, under rules laid out in Canada’s Labour Code, job actions must be suspended when a matter is sent for review by the CIRB.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Federal government’s efforts to block job action has no effect, union says
Air Canada flight attendants are “in a legal strike position,” its union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees said in a statement released Wednesday which contradicted the federal government’s position. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had previously said Ottawa would block a strike by referring the labour dispute to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), arguing a strike would disrupt the Canadian economy. The referral caught labour relations experts by surprise, since the CIRB’s mandate is limited to ruling on the legality of strikes and lock-outs, and there’s no reason to believe a strike by flight attendants would be illegal. Air Canada has said a possible strike won’t effect its operations on Thursday.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 2:26 PM - 3 Comments
Employees reject the airline’s latest contract offer
Air Canada flight attendants could walk off the job as early as Thursday after negotiations with the carrier broke down over the weekend. Two-thirds of employees voted on Sunday to reject Air Canada’s latest contract offer. It was the second time workers failed to support the deal that had been negotiated by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, having already done so in August. The workers and Air Canada seemingly remain far apart on issues such as wages, pensions, crew rest, working conditions and work rules. Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has already indicated the government would force striking employees back to work in the event of a strike.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 10:36 AM - 37 Comments
The government once again threatens back-to-work legislation and this time the Labour Minister muses vaguely of amending the Canadian Labour Code.
There’s something wrong in this case, and does that mean there’s something wrong in the code?” she said. “And if there is, what do we do about it? But the beginning part is analyzing the facts at hand to see if it’s a one-off … or is it a case where the code, which is 100 years old, has to be taken a look at.” Raitt said there are no changes planned, but that she is starting a process to see whether adjustments might be needed in the future.
“If we do have a problem and maybe it is a flaw in the system, we should discover it now and if we need to make changes we can make changes,” the minister said.
See previously: The right to strike
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 5 Comments
Air Canada stops sending its pilots into downtown Winnipeg “due to safety concerns”
You’ve heard of people moving out of downtown areas and into suburban neighbourhoods. Now the airline personnel are doing it themselves—in Winnipeg, at least. Air Canada has announced that “due to safety concerns,” it will stop using the Radisson Hotel in the city’s downtown core to house its pilots and crew. Instead, during layovers, Air Canada employees will be bussed to an airport hotel. A spokesman for the airline told the Winnipeg Free Press this came in reaction to an assessment by “local law enforcement officials, and our own security people,” and didn’t say when—if ever—it will be safe for flight attendants to venture back downtown.
’Peggers bristled at the suggestion their downtown is dangerous. Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz fumed that Air Canada should “say exactly what it is they’re saying” about the perceived threats, implying that safety issues might be an excuse for cutting costs: “There’s more to this than meets the eye,” he said. “The reasons don’t appear to be valid.” The decision comes as a blow at a time when, finally, Winnipeg’s reputation seemed on the mend. This summer, the NHL returned to Winnipeg, but now that the Jets are back, the jet pilots are fleeing.
The airline hasn’t yet given a full public justification for the decision, but an internal memo fingered the “1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba” who were forced to flee their homes during summer flooding. Air Canada has since apologized for what the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called a racist claim that Aboriginal flood victims were making the city dangerous. Airlines expect their pilots to be brave enough to withstand bad weather and the threat of terrorist attacks but, it seems, they must be protected at all costs from homeless people.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 1 Comment
Melanie Aitken has taken on everyone from the real estate industry, to credit card companies, to airlines
In Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, it’s not often that a public official makes a sustained splash. The Prime Minister prefers his bureaucrats quiet, diplomats discreet, and even high-level appointees, like Governor General David Johnston, unobtrusive. In this circumspect climate, Melanie Aitken, the commissioner of competition, stands out. As head of the federal Competition Bureau—the independent agency that enforces laws on anti-competitive behaviour—Aitken has taken on everyone from the real estate industry, to credit card companies, to airlines. The bureau has gone from largely invisible to impossible to ignore. “We are trying,” Aitken says, “to increase the accountability of companies that have taken advantage of Canadians, and show that there are consequences.”
Those consequences hit home for many last year when she pressured the Canadian Real Estate Association into opening up its Multiple Listings Service to brokers who don’t charge full-service fees. She is taking Visa and MasterCard before the quasi-judicial federal Competition Tribunal to try to end their practice of forcing merchants to accept all cards, including premium plastic that comes with higher transaction fees. In the telecom sector, Bell Canada agreed to pay a $10-million penalty after Aitken accused the company of advertising lower prices than were available, and she is pursuing Rogers Communications (owner of Maclean’s) over what she calls “misleading advertising” involving a discount cell service.
When was the last time the bureau was fighting on so many fronts? According to John Rook, a competition lawyer at the Toronto firm Bennett Jones, never. “It’s unprecedented,” says Rook, who worked closely with Aitken when she was at his firm, and sometimes takes on cases for her bureau.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Margin notes on CSIS documents related to the conversation, marked “Secret” and now in the possession of The Globe and Mail, highlight the fact that Mr. Abdelrazik was only on a U.S. no-fly list – insufficient to keep him from returning to Canada. It’s unclear what transpired during the conversation, but soon afterward both Air Canada and Lufthansa abruptly cancelled Mr. Abdelrazik’s ticket home. He would spend another five years in forced exile.
The “Canadian Eyes Only” documents also reveal for the first time officially that U.S. security agents wanted Mr. Abdelrazik shipped to Guantanamo Bay. If CSIS managed to delay Mr. Abdelrazik’s return in 2004, it had the effect of buying time while U.S. agents worked to render him to the notorious camp for suspected terrorists.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 11:06 AM - 10 Comments
Flight attendants could would walk off the job this week, be forced back soon after
The federal government is prepared to speed back-to-work legislation through Parliament should Air Canada flight attendants walk off the job this week. Talks between the workers and airline management broke down Monday night, and workers could go on strike as early as Wednesday. The flight attendants rejected a previous agreement last month. The Harper government plans to legislate an end to the dispute should it escalate into a work stoppage. The Tories hope to limit debate on the legislation while pushing it through in a single sitting.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:55 AM - 43 Comments
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is promising back-to-work legislation if Air Canada and the union representing flight attendants are unable to reach a deal before Wednesday. This would be the fourth time the Harper government has introduced such legislation. Yvon Godin, the NDP labour critic, is unimpressed.
I know she said that she will vote to protect the Canadian economy. At the same time she is voting against the union’s right to have a strike. In this country we still have the right to have free bargaining and have the right to have a strike. The strike is even not started yet and she`s already telling Canadians in this country under the Conservative government there’s no strike. They’ve done it in the spring. They’re doing it again and I think it takes away the freedom of the negotiations, free negotiations by doing it.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
A Syrian official resigns in protest, the UN warns hundreds of thousands could die because of famine in Somalia
Taking a stand
After five months and more than 2,200 casualties, the Syrian regime continues its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. But at least one official is taking sides against President Bashar al-Assad. Adnan Bakkour, a provincial attorney general, resigned in protest last week via YouTube. The state-run news agency said Bakkour was kidnapped and forced to announce his defection, but that seems about as likely as the latest news on Moammar Gadhafi. A spokesman for the besieged Libyan strongman says he is “still strong and capable of turning the tables on NATO.” Meanwhile, there are reports that a convoy of regime loyalists was fleeing the country for Niger.
Another graceful exit
Olivia Chow has ruled out running for the leadership of the NDP. The amazing public outpouring of grief following Jack Layton’s death suggests she could have won a fair amount of support, and Chow surely was under some pressure to pick up the mantle left by her husband. But sentimentality isn’t what the party needs. It requires a leader who can build, in their own way, on what Layton accomplished. Chow wisely decided to focus her considerable skills on other work.
By Barbara Amiel - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 3 Comments
You’d think, given the prices, “Book of Mormon” audiences would be more finicky
There’s a bit of a Mormon moment right now. Think me crazy, but I rather like the sound of a life in which men address each other as “elder” and the womenfolk call each other “sister”—or, when circumstances warrant, “sisterwives.” There’s a respect lost when complete strangers who obtain your credit card take to addressing you by your first name. When the HBO series Big Love brought Mormons into our living rooms, I also rather warmed to the idea of receiving testimony. Though Big Love never quite made the notion clear, I think receiving testimony is a moment when what you want to do gets heavenly sanction.
This line of thought accelerated last week on seeing The Book of Mormon, the most sought-after ticket on Broadway. The plot line is an account set to song and dance of some Mormon missionaries taking their message to Uganda. Doesn’t take a high IQ to predict whose side the writers (credits include the animated series South Park) and audience are on. Let’s just say it isn’t God’s. The play is a musical with superb performances, bad music and largely adolescent lyrics. It’s guiltily watchable, rather like the sloth of reading a bad book at the beach on a hot day. Given the sky-high prices of the tickets (don’t ask, but scalpers are getting nearly four-digit prices for back-of-theatre seats), you’d think the audience would be a tad more finicky over the song Hasa Diga Eebowai, loosely translated as “F–k you God,” rather than screaming with joy over the endless repetition of that banal scatology.
Making fun of Mormons is easy stuff. Mainstream Christians and Jews have the mists of time to cushion any inspection of their peculiar stories.We’ve got accustomed to the Red Sea parting, Lazarus rising. It was all so long ago. The patina of antiquity, backed up by great religious institutions reaching back a thousand years or more, bequeaths respectability. Christian congregations don’t sneer when their minister reads, “Behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.” That’s the Gospel according to Matthew. But when your prophet is not named Matthew but Joseph Smith and his revelation takes place in the upstate New York of 1823 during a visit from the angel Moroni, who tells him of religious writings buried on gold plates along with two stones called the Urim and the Thummim, the message sounds rather Lord of the Rings.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 72 Comments
The Ottawa resident who won against the airline in federal court explains what really set him off
Michel Thibodeau admits it: he is probably the loudest of the roughly one million French Canadians living outside Quebec. Over the last decade, the Ottawa resident and his wife have filed some 100 complaints over the dearth of French language services against the federal, provincial and Ottawa municipal governments—everyone, he says, except the police. The 43-year-old father of two may look about as threatening as a folded newspaper, but he has chalked up a number of victories: his complaints to the City of Ottawa are the main reason you’ll hear French announcements when riding the bus in the nation’s capital. Fluently bilingual, he’s been called unreasonable (among many other things) and ﬁelded the occasional death threat for his efforts.
Yet Thibodeau scored his biggest success last week, when a federal court ruled against Air Canada, his foil in an 11-year case marked by the tension (and occasional absurdity) of the typical made-in-Canada language battle. As a former Crown corporation, the airline must, as a condition of its 1988 sale, conduct a language survey every 10 years and make French services mandatory at airports and on flights where there is at least a five per cent demand. According to the court, the company has repeatedly failed throughout the years to provide adequate services in French, and must pay the self-described soccer dad nearly $19,000 in costs and restitution.
“Air Canada must be able to provide services in both languages,” Thibodeau, who works as a computer technician in the House of Commons, told Maclean’s. “My rights are compromised if it doesn’t, and I have two choices. I can let it be, and my rights become non-existent, or I can do something. I decided to do something.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 25, 2011 at 11:13 AM - 52 Comments
The crime rate is at its lowest since 1973, but prison spending is set to boom. Jason Kenney is chasing fraudulent immigrants and war criminals. John Baird went to China. And the Prime Minister refused to move out of 24 Sussex.
And in other news, Bob Rae proved himself an adept and experienced master of the modern air travel system and/or totally big-timed Newfoundland novelist Kenneth Harvey out of a seat.
“Name,” called the woman, thrusting out her hand again as though to grasp hold of the drowning.
“Bob Rae,” said the pink-faced hobbit of a man, his glasses and suit looking a touch too big for him. “I’m on the delayed St. John’s flight.”
“No,” snapped the militant attendant. “Too late.” Her eyes caught on yet another lost soul and her fingers wiggled for his boarding pass, “Name.”
The man – identified as one of the blessed who belonged on the flight – was embraced as a comrade.
My eyes returned to Bob Rae to hear him utter: “I am Super Elite.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 11:22 AM - 0 Comments
Delays reported as union asks other workers not to cross picket lines
Sales staff and customer service workers for Air Canada went on strike early Tuesday morning, quickly causing travel delays and flight cancellations for passengers in Atlantic Canada, Montreal and Toronto. The Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents 3,800 Air Canada employees, said the strike is a response to disagreements on pensions and wages with the airline. Air Canada has said they will continue to operate a “full flight schedule,” by posting more than 1,700 managers in airports and call centres. But more workers for the airline may soon join the strike, since CAW has called on pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and baggage handlers not to cross the picket lines.
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, April 25, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 13 Comments
Can it learn from past mistakes?
The late 1990s were heady days for penny-pinching North American air travellers. Southwest Airlines, Frontier and WestJet were shaking up the industry with rock-bottom airfares and an army of fresh-faced employees in golf shirts prone to making jokes over the cabin public-address system. Suddenly ﬁnding themselves under attack, big, bloated network carriers attempted to respond by rolling out their own discount outﬁts, splashed with spirited names like Ted (United Airlines), Song (Delta Air Lines), MetroJet (U.S. Airways) and Tango and Zip (Air Canada). The idea was to not only mimic their new rivals’ low prices (although not necessarily their low cost structures), but also the look and feel of a fresh upstart—sometimes with amusing results.
“Somebody at United determined that one of the reasons Southwest was so successful was because they wore shorts,” says Marc-David Seidel, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, recalling a visit to the California operations of Shuttle by United, another big carrier discount attempt. “So, you know the classic pseudo-military United uniforms that are made out of polyester? They basically just took those and cut off the legs.” It gets worse. “One day management decided employees were supposed to have more ‘fun,’ so all these poor people were running around San Francisco airport wearing those little beanies with a propeller on top.” Needless to say, the strategy didn’t work, and Shuttle was scuttled in 2001. Most of the other “airline-within-an-airline” efforts met a similar fate.
Now, a full decade later, Air Canada is once again toying with the idea. It’s trying to convince its unionized workers to support the creation of a new discount airline that would fly all-economy-class planes to various vacation destinations. But can Air Canada really make money on the cheap seats this time around? Though it’s far from clear whether the project will come to fruition after a key agreement with the airline’s pilots got bogged down last week, the reality is that Air Canada, which has seen its stock plunge nearly 90 per cent to around $2.40 since its post-restructuring IPO in late 2006, is steadily losing market share to younger, cheaper competitors such as WestJet, Transat and Toronto’s Porter Airlines. All this at a time when fuel prices, typically the second-biggest expense for an airline after labour, threaten to eat into already thin profit margins. It has no choice but to attempt a little shaking up of its own.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
Conan vs. Leno
The Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno feud began in earnest on Jan. 7, with NBC’s announcement that it intended to give Leno an 11:35 p.m. show and move O’Brien’s Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. The world gaped at what followed: O’Brien’s public rejection of the deal, his prolonged Viking-funeral farewell from Tonight, the tag-team mockery of Leno by late-night rivals Letterman and Kimmel, O’Brien’s exile from TV, his return, and, inevitably, a book (Bill Carter’s The War for Late Night) about the whole fracas.
Steve Jobs vs. Jim Balsillie
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie tussled over the future of mobile devices under the looming shadow of Google’s Android operating system. Jobs boasted that the iPhone was beating RIM’s BlackBerry and declared RIM’s PlayBook tablet “DOA.” Balsillie countered with a volley aimed at Apple’s most notorious weakness: “We know that while Apple’s attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of websites that use Flash.”
By Chris Sorensen and Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 10:10 AM - 62 Comments
The inside story of Canada’s fight with the United Arab Emirates and how it went so wrong
In early October, Canada’s armed forces learned they had just one month to pack up and move a key Mideast military base used to support the war in Afghanistan. Located in the United Arab Emirates, Camp Mirage has been used primarily as a transfer point for Canadian Forces flying to and from Kandahar. For the past eight years, it had provided the Forces with a safe place to land and refuel hulking Hercules transport planes while weary soldiers relaxed at a makeshift camp, complete with a ball-hockey rink.
But the desert oasis, a short drive from Dubai’s beaches and air-conditioned shopping malls, ceased to be part of the military’s operations as of Nov. 3, following a high-level spat between Ottawa and the U.A.E. over commercial airline flights between the two countries.
It was an abrupt end to a long-standing strategic relationship between the countries, and it sent the military scrambling. “It’s a pain in the ass for all these guys who are supposed to be doing other things,” says Douglas Bland, the chair of defence management studies at the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University. “Now they have to stop, pack up and move all of this equipment.” At no small cost: by some estimates $300 million.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, August 13, 2010 at 8:43 AM - 0 Comments
How Robert Deluce took over a Toronto airport, launched Porter Airlines and screwed over Air Canada
At first glance, Robert Deluce seems an unlikely giant killer. The founder and chief executive of Toronto-based Porter Airlines stands shorter than many of the retro-uniformed flight attendants working his airplanes, and his small-town Ontario mannerisms—unfailingly polite with a tendency to ramble—are about as far away from Bay Street big shot as you can get.
On a recent afternoon, he ambled through the departure lounge of Porter’s terminal at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and chatted awkwardly with pilots and other staff, resembling a sort of Columbo of Canadian commercial aviation, minus the scruffy trench coat. And like the fictional TV detective, he is not to be underestimated.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 4:40 PM - 1 Comment
A hot bride takes on the Ritz
Newfoundland: A group of Newfoundlanders is suing the federal government to save a pond in Long Harbour from becoming a dump site for mining waste. They claim cabinet changed the federal Fisheries Act in 2006 allowing small bodies of water to be used as tailings ponds, a decision, they argue, that should be made by Parliament.
Quebec: A Montreal couple claims their wedding was ruined by a lack of air conditioning and is suing the Ritz-Carlton for $150,000. They spent $120,000 on the event, which they argue was wrecked by “oppressive” heat that forced guests to loosen their ties and eat hors d’oeuvres outside.
Ontario: A roofer who went blind after spending five days in a Toronto jail in February 2009 is suing the Ontario government for $1.2 million in damages. He claims to have lost sight in his left eye, and thus his livelihood, after guards and doctors at the jail denied him medication needed to treat an infection, originally caused by a burning cigarette butt that landed on his cornea while he was helping a friend move.
Alberta: An Edmonton family is suing Air Canada for $1.5 million, alleging that employees threatened and falsely imprisoned them for an hour after they asked to leave a plane prior to takeoff due to safety concerns they had over a faulty cabin door.
British Columbia: A couple from Whistler is suing the federal government for $687,500 they claim they lost after contracts for housing members of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit in chalet-style homes during the Olympics were cancelled. The government says mould, water leaks and unsafe wiring made the homes unacceptable.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 5 Comments
Kelly Block and the Bloc, Jason Kenney couldn’t stop laughing, The MP and the pilots
Kelly Block and the Bloc
MPs from all parties took home prizes at Maclean’s fourth annual Parliamentarians of the Year awards ceremony held in the West Block. For the fourth time in a row, Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer won for Most Collegial. (Stoffer said he voted for Liberal whip Rodger Cuzner, a fellow Nova Scotian, who came in second.) Ted Menzies got the prize for Hardest Working MP. It was the first year the Bloc won awards: Gilles Duceppe for Most Knowledgeable and Robert Bouchard for Best Represents Constituents. There was even a joke that the party was on a roll when it was announced that Saskatchewan Conservative Kelly Block had won for Rising Star. Toronto Liberal MP Bob Rae won for Best Orator, which was not surprising since he seems to be one of the few MPs who can ask a question in the House without reading from a piece of paper and can even do a follow-up question that takes into account the answer he just got from the government. The big winner of the night, though, was Transport Minister John Baird, who was named Parliamentarian of the Year.
Attending the awards ceremony was Baird’s mother, Marianne Anderson. Anderson told Capital Diary she tapes question period every day and watches it in the evening. Besides her son, her favourite people to watch in QP are Liberal MP Hedy Fry and NDP Leader Jack Layton. Also there to honour Baird was his Grade 7 teacher Kay Stanley, who happens to be Tory Senate leader Marjory LeBreton’s sister. “John was a very curious student,” said Stanley, who is credited with getting Baird into politics. Stanley used to have a phone in her classroom because she was head of the local teachers’ federation. But she was also heavily involved with the Progressive Conservative party and once received a call during class from then-PC leader Joe Clark. That really impressed Baird. “I never thought my sister and John would end up in cabinet together,” says Stanley. LeBreton said Baird always calls her “Marg, like in The Simpsons. So I call him Homer.” Laureen Harper, who often has Baird as her date at Ottawa social functions, was also at the party. When Stephen Harper famously surprised guests at the National Arts Centre by playing the piano, Mrs. Harper said Baird got a text from a friend saying: “It’s a real drag when your date’s husband shows up.” The night of the awards, Baird had a fundraiser scheduled in his riding so he sent Defence Minister Peter MacKay there in his place. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who was at the Maclean’s awards ceremony, said she learned that Baird has two stories he tells every time at fundraisers. She said that when she heard one of them the ﬁrst time, “I thought it was the funniest joke I ever heard and I believed it as a true story.” Baird describes going to a rickety old house no one ever hits while campaigning in the dead of winter. The person opens the door and says, “Who are you and why are you bothering me? I hate everything to do with the government.” Baird’s punchline? “I’m Dalton McGuinty and I’m here to get your vote for the Liberal party.” Baird’s award wasn’t without controversy. According to Toronto Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, “Anyone who has such great disdain for Parliament and parliamentary procedure makes it an embarrassing evening for Maclean’s. It makes a mockery of the contest.” Though Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms noted that, “given the fact Parliament is immature, maybe it’s a good choice. Despite the bravado, Baird is an approachable guy. But I once called him a blowfish in the House.”
The MP and the pilots
Tory MP Patrick Brown hosted a special reception in the West Block for Air Canada’s pilots union. There are more than 200 Air Canada pilots who live in Barrie, Ont., the city Brown represents. That’s because pilots, Brown explained, must live close to the airport they work out of and Barrie is near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The Barrie pilots have a monthly pub night and a hockey league. Brown says Barrie is nicknamed “Terminal 4,” a reference to when Pearson had three terminals.
Jason Kenney couldn’t stop laughing
During a scrum on his immigration bill, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was told that Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, an outspoken MP who at times rubs people the wrong way, was complaining that had the bill in its current form been around when he immigrated to Canada from Greece, he would not have been allowed into the country. A cheeky journalist immediately asked, “Will the bill be retroactive?” Kenney started to crack up and couldn’t continue.
One ballroom, two very different days
The Council of Arab League Ambassadors in Ottawa held a celebration to showcase their countries in the Fairmont Château Laurier ballroom. Tables were set up highlighting a variety of Middle Eastern cultures, though Palestinian representatives kept their table empty as a sign of mourning for the aid flotilla that attempted to reach Gaza. The honoured guest was Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella. Treasury Board President Stockwell Day’s aide noted that the previous day the room had been made kosher by rabbis because Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to have had an event there but had to return to Israel early to deal with the flotilla crisis.
The Maclean’s Parliamentarians of the Year party was sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group, Pfizer Canada, the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and Wayne Gretzky Estates winery and was hosted in association with the Historica-Dominion Institute and L’actualité.
By Bruce Parkinson, Takeoffeh.com - Friday, June 11, 2010 at 2:11 PM - 4 Comments
Why Robert Milton Made $14.7 Million In 2009, Versailles No More: Pearson Named World’s Most Improved Airport, and More Profit, More Planes for Emirates
Why Robert Milton Made $14.7 Million In 2009
Robert Milton’s legacy at Air Canada may be hotly debated, but there’s no question Milton’s long association with the airline has left a lasting legacy in his bank account. While long since departed to England, Milton is still president and CEO of ACE Aviation, AC’s parent company and 35% shareholder in the airline. As Canadian Press reported this week, thanks to a ‘rationalized’ compensation structure, Milton received close to $15-million from ACE in 2009 – not bad compensation for a part-time job. In reality, Milton’s big payday has more to do with the ‘value-enhancing transactions’ that have enriched shareholders in the past five years, namely spinning off Aeroplan and Jazz Air. In actual compensation for 2009 Milton received a base salary of just over $500,000 and consulting fees of $157,500. Milton also received severance compensation of $7.62 million and a “last payment” of $5 million in ‘incentive awards.’ This year’s $14.7-million in compensation should be the last of the big windfalls for Milton – he made $39-million in 2006 and 2007, again mostly in cash bonuses for engineering the asset sales that warmed the hearts of investors and enraged unions. Going forward, Milton’s paycheque will be held to $270,000 per year – unless he works more than 40 days, at which point he’ll get a per diem of $8,000 per day.
Versailles No More: Pearson Named World’s Most Improved Airport
Once derided as the most expensive place in the world for airlines to land, Toronto’s Pearson International has been honoured by the International Air Transport Association as the world’s ‘most improved’ airport. Over the past three years, Pearson has decreased various charges by 13 to 15 percent. The fee cuts come in the wake of an IATA campaign to get the Greater Toronto Airport Association to lower costs. As IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani puts it: “They built a monument with no notion of how to fund it. We called it Versailles. We had to get rid of a [federal] minister and the [GTAA] CEO. Then we started to work closely together.” As Doug McArthur reported at TakeOffeh.com this week, whether or not passengers are benefitting from lower costs is an open question. Asked if the savings are being passed on to passengers, Bisignani replied cryptically that “the money doesn’t stay in the airlines’ pocket.” Asked the same question, Marilynne Day-Linton, chair of the GTAA board, said she didn’t know. Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu came closest to giving a clear answer, saying cost reductions are reflected in Air Canada’s fares, which are lower “on an absolute basis” than they were a decade ago. IATA says the big benefit of the reduced costs is that fewer airlines will pull out of Toronto and more new airlines will start flying there.
More Profit, More Planes for Emirates
A day after announcing that it is on track to earn more than $1 billion in profits this year, Dubai based airline Emirates placed an $11.5 billion order for 32 Airbus A380s – the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Emirates now has 90 of the big birds on order, over 40% of the entire A380 order book for Airbus. A380s aren’t the only planes in Emirates’ future - in total the airline has contracted for 150 wide-body aircraft worth more than $40 billion, including 70 A350s and 18 Boeing 777-300s. It’s all part of of Emirates’ ambitious strategy to act as a global hub, joining previously unconnected city-pairs around the world through just one stop in Dubai. Emirates is currently flying 10 A380s, with Toronto one of the stops on its route map. The airline was founded just 25 years ago and now ranks among the top 10 in the world in terms of revenue and international passengers. Profitability and a reputation for first rate onboard service has earned Emirates 8th place in this year’s Skytrax ranking of the world’s best airlines. To put its $1 billion profit projection in perspective, the world’s airlines are expected to earn a total of $2.8 billion this year.
By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to Takeoffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com
Photo Credits: aceaviation.com, gtaa.com, emirates.com
By Bruce Parkinson, Takeoffeh.com - Monday, June 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM - 1 Comment
The Volcano Is Resting…Here Come The Hurricanes, Canadian Passports Going Digital, and Where Is WestJet Going Next?
The Volcano Is Resting…Here Come The Hurricanes
Now that the Iceland volcano has quit smoking – at least for now – travel industry fears are focusing on the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, and the news isn’t good. According to Reuters, leading U.S. forecasters are now predicting 18 named tropical storms and 10 hurricanes, five of them major, with a 76% likelihood that a major hurricane will hit the U.S. coastline during the season that extends from June 1 through November 30. Travelling during hurricane season has risks and rewards. The vast majority of visitors won’t even have a sniff of a major storm. Prices are lower too, so it comes down to a personal risk/benefit analysis. But even in a very active hurricane season, you shouldn’t write off the region when planning a winter holiday after November. By then, most storms are just memories discussed over dominoes in the rum shop.
Canadian Passports Going Digital
As of 2012, Canadian passports will have an invisible microchip embedded in the back cover. The chip will store the same personal information now found on page 2 of our passports, along with a digital copy of the passport photo suitable for use by facial recognition software. As reported on TakeOffeh, the proposed new ePassport will have a shelf life of 10 years as opposed to the current five, though children’s passports will have an earlier expiry date. Canada isn’t on the leading edge of this effort — 70 countries, including the EU, are already issuing their own versions of ePassports, with some featuring fingerprints and iris scans as well as digital photos. According to the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, which recently attended a Passport Canada event, one of the major reasons we’re lagging behind on this effort is a lack of funding for Passport Canada. While it is a government agency, Passport Canada operates on a cost-recovery model and receives no funding from the government. Some of the benefits of an ePassport include increased security, less risk of identity theft and a lower chance of forgery or alteration.
Where Is WestJet Going Next?
Since the appointment of Gregg Saretsky as WestJet CEO, speculation has grown about whether the airline has greater ambitions than sticking to its low-cost, North America-focused roots. Their declared intention of becoming one of the world’s top five airlines by 2016 feeds rumours of planned expansion beyond North America. The once-underdog airline with the positive public image has set its sights on taking on Air Canada. It’s doing a good job of that in the Canadian domestic market, but wants to take the challenge a step further, with plans to double its share of the trans-border market to over 25% within six years. WestJet also recently announced a codeshare deal with Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and said a partnership with a U.S. carrier is imminent – which is rumoured to be Delta. Airline consultant Rick Erickson believes this aggressive alliance strategy could be a case of testing the waters before operating its own overseas flights. That’s how it got into packaged holidays: in 2003, it entered into a partnership with Transat that saw WestJet fly charter flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. But, after realizing how profitable selling packaged holidays can be, it launched its own WestJet Vacations business. “I think they’re going to do the same thing in the international arena,” Erickson told Macleans.
But Saretsky poured some cold water on those views this week. Speaking at an annual investor’s day, the CEO pledged to retain the airline’s low-cost, one-type aircraft business model. “We are very much getting back to our focus on costs,” Saretsky said, part of which is continuing to fly a fleet of only Boeing 737 aircraft that keeps costs down but limits how far it can fly. While WestJet’s future plans remain unclear, one thing is for sure: they definitely include becoming a bigger thorn in AC’s side, at least at home and in the competitive U.S./Canada transborder market.
Down In Front: Researcher Says Airlines Need A New Financial Model
Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research says aging boomers and the growing use of global communications as a replacement for some corporate travel will dramatically alter the airline landscape. Harteveldt told Canadian Press reporter Russ Marowits that legacy carriers like Air Canada need to rethink their heavy reliance on high-paying premium passengers, because there simply won’t be as many of them in future. Evolving communications technology, high-definition video conferencing and corporate restrictions on premium travel could alter the destinations serviced by airlines and the size of the premium cabins, Harteveldt says. He points out that several European carriers have already eliminated first class on some routes. “The airlines really have to figure out who is their core customer and they haven’t been very good at this,” Harteveldt says. In the future, the researcher believes leisure travel will drive aviation growth, as retiring boomers set off to explore the world. Not everyone agrees with Harteveldt’s take, including a spokesperson for Air Canada. “Our own experience is that people like and need to travel for business and, as the world economy continues to globalize, we expect this will not change,” said Peter Fitzpatrick. That may be true, but the question remains as to whether employers (and shareholders) will be willing to pay premium fares as much as 10 times as high as economy prices.
By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to Takeoffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com
Photo Credits: ppt.gc.ca, westjet.com
By Takeoffeh.com - Monday, June 7, 2010 at 10:16 AM - 8 Comments
New Tails Hitting Canada’s Runways
There will soon be some new tails at Canada’s airports. With the government of China finally granting Canada ‘Approved Destination Status,’ air traffic between the two countries is expected to boom. As tour groups of mainland nationals begin to flock to our shores, the entrepreneurial Chinese aren’t about to leave all the flying to Air Canada.
Ever heard of Hainan Airlines? It’s definitely not a household airline name in Canada. But it may soon be. How about Shadong Airlines? Xiamen Airlines? These young carriers serve millions of Chinese passengers in a rapidly expanding domestic market. Hainan is one of the few to spread its wings beyond China onto the international front. They currently serve Seattle and have now received regulatory approval to become the first Chinese carrier to offer scheduled flights between Toronto and Beijing.
Thanks to its geographical position, Vancouver is the natural Canadian gateway to Asia, and Chinese carriers are already firmly entrenched. China Airlines, China Eastern and Air China each serve Vancouver, while currently all outbound Toronto flights to Chinese cities are served by Air Canada.
China is the fastest-growing major economy in the world, with an average annual GDP growth rate of over 10%. A large middle class population with strong consumption power is emerging, especially in major cities. China’s outbound tourists totalled 20.22 million in 2003, overtaking Japan for the first time. But that was only the beginning: the China Tourism Academy estimates as many as 54 million tourists will go abroad this year, up from 47 million in 2009. With 54 million Chinese travellers poised to fly, the world’s skies may soon be dominated by eastern carriers.
The Approved Destination Status now allows Chinese travel agents to advertise and organize group tours to Canada. In 2008, visits to Canada by Chinese citizens were up 5.3 per cent from the year before, for a total of 159,000. Chinese travellers had the highest average length of stay (28 nights) in Canada and spent more than visitors from any other country ($1,648.51). According to a Conference Board of Canada survey, approved destination status is expected to boost the yearly rate of travel to Canada from China by up to 50 per cent by 2015. With U.S. overnight visitors down 53% since 2000, there’s no doubt that Canada’s inbound tourism industry is awaiting the influx of Chinese visitors with bated breath.
The other benefit of the ADS designation is that new services offered by Chinese carriers flying to our cities will likely mean tighter pricing on fares for Canadians wanting to visit China.
Photo Credits: boeing.com, images.businessweek.com