Why it’s okay to intervene in Air Canada’s labour dispute

An exchange from the Prime Minister’s media availability in Toronto this afternoon.

Reporter: Prime Minister, why is the government treating Air Canada as if it is a state-owned company by meddling in a private sector labour dispute, rather than allow the free market forces determine and set the price of labour? Why act pre-emptively and subvert the collective bargaining process? And what message are you sending to other countries, other airlines that provide competition, like Porter, whose pilots and flight attendants are with us today?

Stephen Harper: First of all, the position of Air Canada is different. Let me be very clear about this. It is far and away the largest airline of the country, and a shutdown of service on that airline would have significant impact, not only on airline service to Canadians, but on the transportation system as a whole, and potentially on the Canadian economy. Air Canada came to us during the economic crisis, during the global crisis, and asked specifically for government assistance in a number of areas, because of the dangers shutting down the airline would represent to the Canadian economy. I’ll be darned if we will now sit by and let the airline shut itself down. Under these circumstances, at the present time, this is not what the economy needs, and it is certainly not what the travelling public needs at this time of year. So as much as there’s a side of me that doesn’t like to do this, I think these actions are essential to keep the airline flying, to make sure there is … the two parties find some way through mediation, arbitration, of resolving these disputes without having impacts on the Canadian public. My concern is not management or labour. My concern is the broader Canadian public, and I think the broader Canadian public overwhelmingly expects the government to act.