HARDBALL

ACTA and CATO Withdraw Appointees from TICO Board

Wendy Paradis, ACTA President and Jean Hébert, Executive Directo of CATO.
Wendy Paradis, ACTA President and Jean Hébert, Executive Director of CATO.

ACTA and CATO have taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing their respective appointees from the TICO Board as an apparent statement of their frustration with TICO's lack of transparency regarding the future of the compensation fund.

According to a media release issued by ACTA, the appointees will not be reinstated until the associations have met with the Ontario Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, Kaleed Rasheed, to voice their concerns regarding changes to the Ontario travel industry regulator's structure.

The two associations are also asking for a copy of TICO’s recommendations to the Ontario government on future fees and the Compensation Fund financing.

The ACTA/ CATO announcement comes as the TICO Board of Directors is expected to give final approval on 25JUL to its recommendations on TICO’s future fee structure and Compensation Fund funding, which will be sent to the Minister for his review.

“ACTA and CATO have been denied details on the fee mechanism despite a decade of advocating for change,” said Wendy Paradis, ACTA president. “Both ACTA and CATO have appointees on the TICO board and yet, have been excluded from this information despite numerous requests. “

“Our Associations want to provide all information before the Minister makes a decision (on TICO's funding model). We believe (our) long-time request for a better consumer protection system in Ontario and a consideration of the financial burden put on an industry, which hasn’t recovered yet from the pandemic, has, once again, been ignored," said Jean Hébert, CATO Executive Director.

"We want to be included in Ontario’s ‘Open for Business’ plan.”

“Once approved by the TICO Board, the Minister will have 45 days to react without having heard the concerns from industry," added Hébert.

"The two associations want to make their position known to the Minister given that the industry has once again been denied a legislated consumer contribution “insurance” protection system in Ontario, comparable to the one that is so appreciated in Québec."

He added: “In our experience, while consultations are expected after the Ministerial review, if all the necessary documentation is not contained in the report, it is difficult for recommendations to change.”

Lack of transparency

Last month, ACTA and CATO issued a media release outlining their joint frustration with the lack of transparency on the financial impact on TICO registrants.

As Open Jaw reported on 27JUN, TICO issued a statement saying it was "premature" to share the findings of its months-long review of the funding framework and fee model.

In SEPT 2022, TICO initiated a third party review - the largest review of its funding framework and fee model since its establishment.  Upon concluding the review in spring 2023, recommendations were offered to TICO for its consideration.

Despite ACTA and CATO's urgent requests for those recommendations to be made public TICO CEO Richard Smart stated at the end of JUN that the disclosure of findings would be delayed.

"We understand the industry's keen anticipation for the review's outcome," said TICO CEO Richard Smart in a statement at that time. "While we are equally eager to disclose the findings, we are currently finalizing our fee review analysis (business case), which will be submitted to the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery prior to launching consultations. It would be premature to share incomplete information at this stage."

As TICO's Board of Directors is set to vote on 25JUL on the regulator's final recommendations to the provincial government, ACTA and CATO say they have no choice but to take concrete action to protest that they - and their members - remain in the dark.

“Our joint action sends a clear message to government that we oppose this process. We also want to emphasize what ACTA and CATO have long been calling for – a regulator that should be the “right size” to match the industry it is regulating, not one that is considering an increased financial burden on its Registrants -- especially when it is those same Registrants that were the hardest hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paradis.

“We believe that it is important that our Associations stand up for not only the travel industry but also for the public interest and take a strong stand for a better Ontario Compensation Fund funding model. For all those reasons, we do NOT want to put our appointees in a situation that raises a fundamental conflict of interest,” said Hébert.

ACTA and CATO have sent a joint letter to Minister Rasheed requesting an urgent meeting to stress that important changes must be made to the process, and for a better, fairer funding system.

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