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All COVID-19 All-the-Time

In addition to the flurry of Exemptions that have been flying around for the last couple weeks, my phone has been ringing-off-the-hook with calls from Operators and Associates. I wanted first to thank you for alerting me to your challenges – and there have been many. I can’t help with issues that I am not aware of.

For those of you that haven’t called me – yet, please do not hesitate to ring my cell at (613) 884-1422. The concerns that have been raised with me have helped inform many of HAC’s submissions and requests – to Transport Canada, and multiple Ministers, including Finance and the Transport Minister.

Concerns raised through the HAC office have centered on obtaining exemptions in a number of key areas – most notably, the parts of our Spring training and testing process that have become impossible or impractical to carry out in the context of COVID-19 self-isolation. I must acknowledge Transport Canada’s responsiveness to requests from the industry on these issues. They have been holding thrice-weekly teleconferences to understand what our most pressing concerns, are. What began as a tsunami of requests and a trickle of information, has become a tsunami of information and a few outstanding requests – in a few short weeks. We aren’t done yet – most notably on the subject of immediate financial relief for our industry. Our efforts have focused on an initial 90-day, 90% wage subsidy for our employees.  From a regulatory perspective, however, Transport Canada staff have stepped-up to provide us with enough relief from certain regulations to get us started if we can get back to business, soon. Spring casual charter has dried up altogether, and many contracts have been canceled or postponed. Operators are concerned about “getting back to work” but only under circumstances where their crew members and employees are protected from the risk of contracting the disease. 

What is clear, is that there is going to be a lot of “essential service” work – maybe too much in an already strained labour market. I think that we can expect to see the pressure on our operator-members intensify as the pandemic deepens, and operators are under pressure to evacuate ill individuals from Northern and remote communities to centers where they can receive treatment – particularly as the COVID numbers peak during Spring break-up. The movement of Medical Teams in remote communities has already started in many areas.  It is clear that when our Provincial MEDEVAC services are overwhelmed by demand, the government will turn to Air Taxi operators to move people in small numbers and low altitudes (owing to the effect of COVID-19 on the respiratory system of affected individuals) to hospitals, where they can receive care. Now, more than ever, it is important to keep the lines of communication open with the government.  Please contact me to let me know what you need from them, and let's hope this is over, soon.

Stay strong. Stay healthy.