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Transport Minister Marc Garneau agrees that air transport is “literally a lifeline to communities” in the North but he would not commit May 28 to changing his department’s proposal to apply a single flight and duty times (FDT) regulation to all operators regardless of size.
The issue was raised in the House of Commons by former Liberal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo, who now sits as an independent Member of Parliament for Nunavut.
Tootoo said in a statement the government mistakenly believes the “one-size-fits-all approach” imposed in southern Canada–where it has been criticized by small operators–will work for his constituents.
“The North, in particular my riding of Nunavut, has its own unique challenges which require a different approach,” said Tootoo. “The proposed changes to flight/duty time regulations may not be a big issue for large airlines operating in the south. However, these changes, if implemented, threaten the very survival of small airlines that service the people of my riding. The government has repeatedly indicated that Nunavut’s unique nature would be taken into account when making decisions. Now is the time to act on this commitment.”
In the daily question period a short time later, Tootoo pressed Garneau to heed a Coalition of Canadian Airlines proposal for further consultations on “a mutually acceptable solution that works for everyone.”
Garneau said that while he agreed on the importance of northern air services, he had “to ensure that air transportation is done in a safe manner, and that includes the issue of crew duty day and fatigue, and we are doing this at the moment.”
To that end, he added, “I have been in contact with northern stakeholders and northern air operators, and we will continue to do so as we move forward.”
The minister had confirmed six days earlier than his department is “in the process of finalizing” updated FDT regulations.