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Between the various hats that I wear as a journalist, a sometimes public speaker and a consultant, I find myself in the skies more often than most.  Not quite at Ryan Bingham levels, for those who've seen or read Up in the Air, but still, enough that I'm responsible for a not insignificant amount of airline revenue.

This year has been a bit different, of course.  I took 104 flights last year, compared to just 23 this year.  Of those, only a handful have been since the world locked down in March.  At the time, I had quite a number of flights booked, some of which I had to cancel myself, while most were canceled by Air Canada.  With one exception, all of these flights were domestic, meaning there has never been a government travel restriction that would affect them.  However, anytime I've gotten an email informing me of a cancellation, it has conspicuously blamed a "government travel advisory."

No such advisory exists, but Air Canada believes classifying cancellations in this way, exonerate it from any moral or financial responsibility.  This effectively lets the company skirt the relatively new Air Passenger Protection Regulations that require airlines to compensate passengers for delays and disruptions stemming from "situations within airline control."

The airlines claim that they are, pardon the pun, mere passengers to COVID-19 and that these cancellations aren't within their control.  If an airline cancels a flight due to poor demand stemming from the pandemic, is that a choice by the airline?  I'd say it is, though it's murky, and shows how the passenger protection regulations still leave considerable grey area.

Thus, Air Canada is offering no compensation, nor even refunds.  Instead, passengers have been receiving non-refundable vouchers to be used on future flights.  This may have been forgivable when we still thought we were just in this for "two weeks to flatten the curve," but even now, future travel is hard to envision.  United Airlines' CEO says he doesn't expect normal flying demand to return until 2024, so there's that.

Until last week, WestJet was no different, though the Calgary-based airline just announced it will be contacting all customers whose itineraries were cancelled by the airline, going back to March, to offer refunds.

Air Canada took to Twitter to accuse WestJet of "just now catching up to our policy to refund refundable fares," though WestJet's Twitter account was quick to point out that, unlike Air Canada, WestJet is refunding all relevant fares  even lower cost nonrefundable fares.

Air Canada went conspicuously quiet after that.

There's no denying airlines are hurting financially.  Even if they make for apt corporate villains, they employ tens of thousands of people normally, and can no longer do that if people aren't flying.  Air Canada's stock price went from just over $50 in January to under $17 when markets closed last week.  Both Air Canada and WestJet have laid off thousands this year.

While no bailout has been proposed, the federal government hasn't ruled it out.  Before a dime of taxpayer money goes to airlines, "it absolutely must be tied to refunds for passengers," Conservative transport critic Stephanie Kusie said.  Her NDP counterpart Niki Ashton went further to say customers have been "ripped off" by receiving vouchers instead of refunds.

It's possible what looked like a benevolent act from WestJet was a strategic play to go hat-in-hand to the federal government, but that doesn't make it any less right for the company to have done so.

As it stands, there is a proposed class action lawsuit against Canadian airlines over the very question of whether they must provide refunds over COVID-19 cancellations.

I am sympathetic to the airlines in some regard, given their cash crunch is undeniable.  But the unforeseeable nature of COVID-19 gives no excuse to companies to make their woes those of their customers.

My wish has been that airlines would offer their customers a choice: a refund of 100% of what was paid for the ticket, or a credit worth 125%.  Some cruise lines have done this with some success, striking a balance between keeping the revenue in hand while sweetening the deal for customers.  It buys a lot of goodwill, and for someone like me who hopes to be traveling again, would offer a bit of hope.

Photo Credit: Yahoo

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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An anniversary happened this week.  You can be forgiven for missing it.

That's because no one really celebrated it.

The Canadian federal general election happened on October 21, 2019.  It resulted in Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party getting re-elected.  It was in all the papers.

Except the first anniversary of Trudeau's re-election really wasn't in the papers, or a victory.  Postmedia and CBC published a couple stories, true, in which a couple Paul Martin acolytes were interviewed.

And, to be sure: if you're writing a story about how to take a perfectly good Parliamentary majority and turn it into a minority or a loss, those are indeed the guys to consult: they are the undisputed experts in wrecking Liberal parties, and losing power.

But the anniversary of the October 2019 election?  No one really noticed, or cared.  The reason was simple: with a single notable exception, every federal Canadian political party every federal leader lost something.  They didn't win.

Justin Trudeau, for example, may have been returned to power.  But he lost plenty.

He lost a comfortable Parliamentary majority, and was reduced to a minority, one that the Opposition parties can combine to remove from government.  While still clinging to power, Trudeau's share of the popular vote is puny just 33 per cent.

Trudeau actually received a lot fewer votes than the Conservative Party.  And it was the first time in history that a Canadian political party has formed a government with so little of the popular vote.

It's not just a numbers game, either.  By losing his majority, Trudeau lost control of some powerful House of Commons committees.  (And that is why he actually threatened to force an election last week to prevent the creation of a new committee that would have the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents in the never-ending WE scandal, which has implicated Trudeau and his family.)

Trudeau lost something else in the October 2019 election, too: his reputation.  When it was revealed that the Liberal leader wore racist blackface at least three times, he shocked Canadians, and became a figure of ridicule and derision around the world.

And it's not forgotten, either: just this week, satirist Sacha Baron Cohen savagely mocked Trudeau in his hit Borat movie sequel, showing the Canadian Prime Minister wearing blackface while a teacher at a Vancouver school.

The Conservatives and their former leader lost plenty, too.  The Tories were shut out of Canadian cities, and shunned by Canadian women or youth.  Despite Trudeau's myriad scandals including blackface, which literally broke while the election campaign was underway the Conservative campaign was disjointed, incoherent and poorly-managed.

Its then-leader, Andrew Scheer, distinguished himself as a remarkably unremarkable politician and one who couldn't score on an open net, even on a breakaway.

The New Democrats lost, as well.  When the election was called, Jagmeet Singh's party had nearly 40 seats.  When it ended, Singh had lost almost half of them.  His share of the popular vote plummeted.

In the intervening year, Singh has further diminished his party by cravenly propping up Justin Trudeau's government simply because Singh and his NDP lack the money, and the strength, to fight another election.  His New Democrats have handed Trudeau a majority in all but name, in exchange for nothing.

The Green Party which, full disclosure, was the only party with which my political consulting firm had a contract devoted money and resources to winning many more seats.  In the end, it only added one.  And its quixotic leader, Elizabeth May, finally was obliged to take a hint and resign.

Finally, Maxime Bernier's People's Party did not win a single seat.  Not one.  And the only seat it had Bernier's, which had been previously held by his father was lost, crushed by his Conservative opponent.

So who won the October 2019 election?

The separatists did.  Under the impressive Yves-François Blanchet, the Bloc Québécois dramatically improved its standing in the House of Commons from ten seats at dissolution, to 32 now.

Blanchet eviscerated the NDP, denied the Liberals a majority, and helped reduce the Conservatives' presence in Quebec.  His Bloc is now the third-largest group in the House of Commons, and arguably the most effective Opposition party.

All of that explains, then why the anniversary of Canada's October 2019 election didn't attract much attention:

Every Canadian political party lost except the political party that wants to break up Canada.


Photo Credit: Jeff Burney, Loonie Politics

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.