A Regina member of parliament is raising concerns after all 10 air traffic controllers at the Regina International Airport were laid off.
Last month, more than 100 air traffic controllers received layoff notices across Canada, according to a release from the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA).
On Monday, the MP for Regina-Wascana said Nav Canada, the body that runs Canada’s air traffic control system, received millions in bonuses around the time of the layoffs.
“In testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, it was revealed Thursday that Nav Canada executives had been given $7 million in bonuses at the same time they were preparing to issue [layoffs],” Michael Kram said in a news release.
In an email to CTV News Regina, Nav Canada said it has taken unprecedented measures to lower expenses, including a reduction in management positions, management pay and the pension plan available to managers.
“The management incentive program is a one-time payment that has been maintained but that has also been reduced significantly, reflective of our current realities while balancing the long-term need to retain leadership talent,” Brian Boudreau, Media Relations Manager for Nav Canada wrote.
Boudreau said $7 million in bonuses was distributed to 558 managers throughout the organization.
Kram, who sits on the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, alleged in a news release that some airlines are mulling whether to consolidate their provincial services to Saskatoon.
Layoffs at Nav Canada affected service at four area control centres in Gander, Moncton, Montreal and Edmonton, and at air traffic control towers in St-Jean, Que., Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie, Regina, Fort McMurray, Prince George and Whitehorse.
“We understand that Nav Canada has seen a significant decline in revenue due to the pandemic and it needs to find efficiencies, but we can’t allow public safety to be compromised,” Doug Best, CATCA President and CEO said.
Regina is one of seven cities in Canada being considered for permanent tower closure. Nav Canada is reviewing whether some airports are busy enough to require the service.
The issue was raised during Question Period in Parliament last week.
Regina-Lewvan MP Warren Steinley said he met with Nav Canada officials on Dec. 4 and was told the decision making process would take months.
“Why is it Regina airport employees received notice of lay-offs on Jan. 14 if this report is not even finished yet?” Steinley asked, during Question Period on Thursday.
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra replied that the safety and security of the travelling public is his top priority and that of the government. He said Nav Canada has undertaken several studies to determine the level of service needed and that no decision has been made.
“It’s important to note that any changes in the level of service proposed by Nav Canada will be subjected to a rigorous safety assessment by Transport Canada,” Alghabra said.
The Transport Minister added that the process will involve consultation with stakeholders and that no compromise on safety will be taken.
Nav Canada says the lay-off notices could be rescinded, depending on the outcome of the review.
The CEOs of the affected airports have sent a joint letter to the federal Transport Minister, asking him to stop any plans to close airport control towers.
Regina is the largest city facing possible tower closure.