The Communist Party of Canada is calling on the federal government to nationalize Air Canada and Bombardier now, without delay.
The airline was publicly owned from 1937 until 1988-89, when it was privatized by the Mulroney government, and was created by an Act of Parliament to serve the transportation needs of Canadians across the continent.
Privatization and deregulation resulted in cut-throat competition between private carriers whose interests were profits, not servicing all parts of the country. As a result, service to northern and remote areas rapidly declined and in recent decades has been relegated to only major cities in southern Canada. Business hubs such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal have the most frequent service. Costs for travellers have increased dramatically while service has declined.
During the pandemic, Air Canada received $492 million in Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) payments before laying off thousands of employees in June and another including 1,500 on February 9, while announcing another 17 routes would be cut.
By itself, this is reason enough to bring the airline back under public ownership.
But instead, the government approved Air Canada’s $190 million purchase of Air Transat, a company which also received $100 million in CEWS subsidies and is also in trouble.
How will this purchase be financed, since Air Canada is itself reliant on federal government subsidies to keep the lights on? Very likely, the takeover will be paid with funds from the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) or other federal government emergency benefits. In other words, with public funds.
The Mulroney government’s decisions to privatize and deregulate the airline industry have proved disastrous for transportation service and for airline workers in Canada. It’s time to stop subsidizing private airlines, and adequately support a publicly owned airline whose purpose is to provide routes and affordable travel to the public.
Bombardier is a private company that uses the public treasury like its own bank account. Subsidies began in 1966 and the corporation received at least $5 billion in dozens of separate disbursements since then. The huge $3.74 billion government subsidy in 2017 resulted in a 50 percent salary increase for executives and $5 million to Executive Chairman Pierre Beaudoin. Bombardier has just announced it will lay-off 1,600 workers including 700 in Quebec and 100 in Ontario. Even the World Trade Organization has criticized this company’s catastrophic business practices.
It’s time to stop the bailouts and nationalize Bombardier.
This should be an important pillar of a new transportation policy for Canada, that puts the interests of the public before the profit-driven interests of greedy corporations, executives and shareholders. This should include building public transit systems for cities, inter-urban rail transit, a publicly-owned bus service to replace Greyhound routes that were canceled due to low profit margins, and a publicly-owned automotive industry to produce an electric car and other light vehicle transportation in Canada. To save and create jobs, workers must demand an end to the corporate bailouts and the immediate nationalization of Air Canada and Bombardier.
Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada