The federal government appears to be in no hurry to move forward on a long-delayed plan to force airlines to advertise the full price of airfares.
As Canwest News Service reports, legislation to update key sections of the Canada Transportation Act – including a requirement that airlines include all the extra fees, surcharges and taxes in airfare advertising – became law in June 2007 with the support of all political parties.
A last-minute amendment in the Senate delayed the advertising provision until the government held consultations with provinces and the airline industry to sort out how to move forward without harming domestic airlines. In other words, the lobbying efforts of Canada’s airlines were successful in delaying the process.
Three years later, Transport Minister John Baird has for a second time reneged on a commitment to hold public consultations. Last December the government promised to hold parliamentary hearings during the current session. But the session will close within days and opposition members say there has been no movement by the government.
“I don’t think the government has any commitment at all to doing this. It’s not following through on the promise that it made. You can throw your hands up in the air and say these people have no interest in consumer protection,” Liberal MP Joe Volpe told Canwest.
“They must be concerned with the reaction from the airline industry. They’ve certainly not delayed doing this because they’re concerned about the consumer, so the government is going to be put in an embarrassing position here of not supporting what it put forward as a solution,” added NDP MP Dennis Bevington.
A spokesman for Baird says the opposition is wrong to suggest all-in-airfare advertising is dead. “Currently the minister is concentrating on dealing with other pressing matters such as aviation security and keeping Canadians who travel by air, safe. All-in-one airfare advertising remains a part of the government’s agenda and will be brought forward for further discussion sometime in the future.”
Airlines argue that it would be unfair to require them to advertise the final cost of a ticket because some foreign carriers could continue to advertise base fares on their websites, from which Canadian travellers can make purchases.
But Volpe says enough is enough: “The law is clear, the intention of Parliament was clear, the commitment that was received was clear – ‘We’re going to get this done in months, not in years.’ I think you can interpret this inaction as the government turning its back on this whole process,” he said.