Following their long-awaited meeting with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on March 29, The Association of Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) was invited to meet with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s senior policy advisor and participate as a witness at Meeting No. 32 of the Standing Committee on Finance.
This was important for the grassroots group that, since June 2020, has been fighting for fairness on behalf of independent travel advisors amid the COVID-19 pandemic because most ICs have been turned away from CEBA, RRRF and provincial funding programs, ACITA says.
The April 1 meeting was recorded on ParlVu and ACITA appears at the 16:00 mark (click here to watch the highlights).
But perhaps one of the most telling moments from the meeting was when ACITA was asked by Committee Member, Conservative MP Tamara Jansen, if they had heard of a newly-formed task force on Women in the Economy that is being led by Minister Freeland.
ACITA’s Brenda Slater was taken back by the question given that ACITA met with Freeland's policy advisor just two days prior and no task force was ever mentioned – even though Freeland’s advisor was given the statistic that 85 per cent of all travel advisors are women.
“Sorry, I’m a little bit thrown…We’re not aware of that,” a visibly-surprised Slater responded. “We would be very interested in learning about this.”
Watch the exchange here.
MP Jansen, who has long supported ACITA, said it was “crazy” that the Liberals haven't yet told ACITA about the task force, which Minister Freeland announced on International Women’s Day (March 8) and, apparently, has yet to act on.
It's worth highlighting given that ACITA routinely meets with politicians, via Zoom, to outline extremely reasonable requests on behalf of independent travel advisors.
Given the statistics, why, then, haven't they been informed of a special task force for women in the economy? PAX has reached out to the offices of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland for comment.
MP Jansen went on to call ACITA “warriors” in their fight to support independent travel advisors – a voluntary mission that has included calls for commission protections, financial aid and a safe reopening of the travel industry.
The task force is comprised of women from large corporations in the financial, energy, education and not for profit sectors. However, there appears to be no one to speak on behalf of small businesses, ACITA pointed out.
ACITA’s plan is to continue calling on Ottawa to show the public that they have a plan for the safe return of travel.
“This plan should include benchmarks,” ACITA says, such as a certain percentage of the population being vaccinated, in conjunction with enhanced testing that will restore consumer confidence and bring hope to many Canadians, “many of whom are suffering mentally due to being cut off from family members who live in other countries.”
This was one point the group raised at its meeting with Minister Alghabra on March 29.
travel.gc.ca currently has several social media campaigns that are accompanied by the slogan: "Get the facts. Stay in Canada.”
Other posts, which can be found circulating on Facebook, contain the additional narrative: "Don't book that trip just yet. Get the facts to stay safe."
“ACITA maintains that these ads are doing nothing more than putting fear of the future into the hearts and minds of Canadians, when instead, the government should be showing the public that they have a plan for recovery,” the group said in a release on Monday (Apr. 5).
The ads run even as the government maintains that just 1.8 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Canada are connected to international travel.
With this in mind, ACITA continues to question why the government has put strict measures in place, such as the cancellation of all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico until April 30, the shutdown of international airports with the exception of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, the closure of regional airports in most provinces, and the mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for international arrivals.
“The restrictive measures listed above have all but shut down the entire travel industry including the small businesses of independent travel advisors,” ACITA said. “[Agents] are continuing to operate their businesses, repatriate Canadians stranded in other countries, facilitate trip cancellations, process Future Travel Credits for airlines and travel suppliers and assist their clients with insurance claims – all without receiving any revenue.”
Since June 2020, ACITA has held more than 200 meetings with Members of Parliament, policy advisors, ministers and members of the senate in support of their members.
You can also follow ACITA’s progress on Twitter here.
Watch the group's involvement at the April 1 FINA meeting here.
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