Members of Parliament from all parties voted unanimously on Thursday to condemn Air Canada for paying out millions of dollars in executive bonuses while negotiating a COVID-19 support package with the federal government, refusing to honour customer refunds and laying off thousands of staff.
Bloc Québécois MP Xavier Barsalou-Duval put forward the motion, which states “that this House condemn the decision of senior management of Air Canada to pay themselves $20 million in executive bonuses when they’re received $6 billion in public assistance.”
Air Canada informed shareholders on Monday that its top executives and managers were getting a combined $10 million in stock options and bonuses for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday called that “unacceptable.”
The airline is facing heavy criticism over its decision to pay out $10 million in bonuses as well as special stock options to its executives despite spending the past year laying off roughly 25,000 workers and refusing to compensate Canadians for flights cancelled because of the pandemic.
Its board had initially approved $20 million in bonuses but paid out $10 million.
The payout late last year came as the airline was negotiating a federal support package after claiming it could not reimburse customers and had to hack away at regional flight routes out of financial difficulties.
Those bonuses also came as the airline was agreeing to federal assistance terms that stipulated it will have to limit executive compensation to $1 million while restricting dividends and share buybacks.
The government’s aid package for Air Canada included a $4-billion loan and $500 million in federal equity, plus a separate $1.4-billion loan to be used specifically to get the airline to refund customers.
Air Canada customers wanting refunds welcome news of feds’ loan to airline
Conservative transport critic Stephanie Kusie questioned the terms of the support package.
“The fact that the Liberal government agreed to a deal with these terms makes it clear that only Conservatives are fighting for the health of the airline sector,” she said in a statement.
Barsalou-Duval on Wednesday called Air Canada “grifters” and Trudeau said he understands the “shock” Canadians are feeling at the airline’s decision to reward executives.
“We all are waiting for Air Canada to explain itself,” Trudeau said.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government plans to voice its concerns about the airline.
She told reporters during a phone call on Wednesday that she’s disappointed some businesses receiving taxpayer-funded federal aid to survive the pandemic aren’t behaving as good corporate citizens.
So far, the government has offered little indication of a further response to the airline’s decision.
More to come.
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