Industry groups are raising concern about Transport Canada’s ability to travel to conferences and other aviation gatherings after a year of tightly-controlled discretionary spending.
The Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) and the Northern Air Transport Association (NATA) are both objecting to the federal regulator’s approach to travel spending, saying Transport Canada needs direct, in-person contact with stakeholders.
“Because of the budget restrictions and the travel restrictions, they’re not getting engaged,” said Rudy Toering, president and CEO of the CBAA.
“They’re not seeing what exactly is going on. They’re not getting the grassroots information.”
More than that, he said, is the regulator’s representation at international bodies.
“We need to make sure that … the Canadian government is very aware of what regulations are being put into place in different countries and what effect that is going to have on the competitiveness of the business aviation group in Canada.”
Toering and NATA executive director Glenn Priestley made clear they are raising concern to help Transport Canada’s directors general get the resources they need.
The organizations are not criticizing the efforts of the directors general, they said.
Transport Canada did not respond directly to several questions Skies submitted by email, but did say that over the past year the department, “tightly controlled all discretionary spending, including travel, to ensure that it remains within approved authority levels.”
The regulator said it is committed to engaging with its “stakeholders, industry, and Canadians in order to continuously enhance the safety of Canada’s transportation system.”
Transport Canada said it receives feedback through various channels, including by participating in transportation-related events and conferences, engaging with advisory bodies like the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council and by seeking feedback from the public on regulatory initiatives through the Canada Gazette process.
Canada Gazette is the federal government’s official online newspaper, which publishes new statutes and regulations, proposed regulations, decisions of administrative boards and government notices.
“Transport Canada continues to ensure that available resources are allocated to the highest priorities and operational requirements,” the regulator said in its emailed statement.
Two officials from Transport Canada attended NATA’s annual conference in 2016, said NATA executive director Glenn Priestley.
But he said NATA has been told that in the future the regulator will require NATA to cover the cost of travelling to the conference and lodging during the conference.
Transport Canada did not respond directly to a question asking if its officials will be unable to attend aviation industry conferences and other industry events unless organizers cover the cost of travel and lodging.
NATA has passed a resolution calling on the regulator to establish a process that would allow national and regional personnel to fully participate at the conference in person.
The purpose of that participation would be to “better communicate Transport Canada’s goals and objectives, to fully understand industry needs and to enhance their professional development.”
Organizers of the John C. Webster Memorial Trophy Competition, committed to declaring the top amateur pilot in Canada, have indicated civil aviation inspectors from Transport Canada will be unable to take part in the competition this year.
Two Transport Canada inspectors have traditionally attended the competition, with one running tests in a simulator and another taking part in airwork exercises in an airplane, said competition steward Wayne Foy.
Transport Canada was also able to update the competition’s written examination every year, said Foy.
“I see myself that this cultural shift really is affecting the ability of the inspectors to do their job correctly or properly, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.
“The world’s changing, obviously. We’re into more digital, technological aspects of flying now that maybe were in the background. But that doesn’t take away the fact that these processes should be monitored by an oversight of a regulatory presence.
“And that regulatory presence doesn’t exist as much nowadays, in my mind.”
Transport Canada said in a statement it has launched a comprehensive review of its activities to “ensure they are relevant, achieving results, and aligned with the department’s mandate.
“This exercise will ensure that spending is directed to areas of highest priority and benefit for Canadians,” the regulator said. “The department will propose and further analyze a number of transformative initiatives throughout the coming months.”