(Ottawa) Conservative and New Democrat MPs call for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport to hear testimony from Transport Minister Omar Alghabra about disruptions to flights and departures train during the holiday break.
Conservative and New Democrat members of the transportation committee on Wednesday sent a letter to committee chair Peter Schiefke calling for a meeting to be held as soon as possible.
“It’s not enough for the Liberal minister to tweet that the situation was unacceptable,” NDP Transportation Critic Taylor Bachrach said in a statement.
“He is the minister responsible for overseeing Canada’s transportation system and has specific powers under the legislation. If anyone can do anything to protect passengers, it’s him. Canadians deserve to know what steps he has taken during the crisis and plans to take in the future to protect passengers,” Bachrach added.
Mr. Schiefke, who chairs that committee, tweeted on Tuesday that he planned to call a meeting to hear from Sunwing and VIA Rail executives, but has yet to do so.
Opposition MPs are asking that any meeting also include a two-hour period with Minister Alghabra.
“Given his role in overseeing Canada’s transportation system, it is important that these hearings include a two-hour appearance from Transport Minister Omar Alghabra. As chair, it would be prudent to start arranging for the minister to appear immediately,” five opposition MPs wrote in their letter to the committee chair.
Although standing committees generally meet according to a previously established schedule or on the express call of the chair, a meeting may be called at the written request of four of its members.
In addition to Bachrach, Conservative Transport Critic Mark Strahl signed the letter, as did the three other Conservative members of the committee.
The president is now required to convene a meeting to consider the written request within five working days.
At a press conference earlier Wednesday, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said the lack of options for Canadian travelers is making airfare less affordable. He asks the Liberal government to find ways to make the airline industry more competitive.
The Canadian Transportation Agency requires that companies offering domestic flights be majority-owned and controlled by Canadians, which limits options for travellers, especially in rural or remote areas.
Over the holiday break, hundreds of travelers found themselves stranded in Mexico when Sunwing canceled flights. The Canadian carrier and tour operator has even completely suspended, until February, all of its activities at Saskatchewan’s two major airports, in Regina and Saskatoon.
Air Canada is halting flights from Regina and Saskatoon to Calgary, Alta., this month after pausing flights from Yellowknife to Edmonton last year.
Mr. Singh on Wednesday hoped that Minister Alghabra would provide better oversight of this industry.
“We need to make sure people can get around the country affordably,” he said. And right now, for a lot of people, that’s not the case at all. This is something we need to look at to find solutions. »
In Minister Alghabra’s office, a spokesperson assured that the government is doing everything possible to support travelers. “All options are on the table so that what happened during the holidays does not happen again,” wrote Nadine Ramadan.