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QUESTION PERIOD — Transport

COVID-19 Pandemic--Travel Restrictions

June 9, 2022


Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Leader, you may remember that back in January WestJet, Air Canada and Pearson Airport in Toronto asked your government to remove mandatory PCR testing and quarantine for travellers. It took the NDP-Liberal government more than three months to follow through on this request.

On Monday, the Canadian Airports Council, representing over 100 airports, called for the removal of vaccine requirements for air passengers and aviation employees. Their statement read:

In order to support this industry’s economic recovery and compete globally, Canada must align with the international community and join the list of over 50 countries that have already removed vaccine mandates and COVID protocols for travel.

Leader, summer travel has begun. Canadians can’t wait another three months for your government to make the right decision. When will these mandates be removed?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for your question. As I have answered on many occasions, a number of measures have been removed. A number of measures have been introduced to alleviate the burdens of those seeking to enter or leave Canada, but the fact remains that the government continues to believe that some measures, including the ones that you mentioned, are necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians. We’ll continue to monitor that situation, as they have been doing, and any changes will be announced when they are ready to be announced.

Well, I would like to thank you for your answer, but I cannot.

Last week another industry group, the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable, also asked the NDP-Liberal government to provide urgent relief at the border saying:

Canadians can attend concerts, go to sporting events, and gather in significant numbers; travel should no longer be singled out with unscientific and unnecessary COVID policies which many countries around the world have rightfully removed.

The situation at Pearson Airport is quickly becoming an international joke. I read this morning that the delays and long lineups at Pearson could continue until the end of August. All this government can do is blame passengers for the delays. Leader, how many more times does your government have to be asked to change your travel policies and drop your mandates before you actually listen?

Senator Gold [ + ]

The government is listening. It continues to listen, and it continues to make decisions that it believes are in the best interests of Canadians.

It is important for honourable senators in this chamber and for Canadians to understand, first of all, that the government knows how frustrating it is for Canadians to be subjected to long lines and delays at airports. These are not unique to Canada. We are seeing long lines at Dublin Airport in Ireland, cancelled flights in the United States and Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. It doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, but it means that it is a problem that is not unique to Canada.

The government is taking many steps in order to alleviate the problem. It has now hired over 850 new screeners in airports across Canada. It’s rapidly increasing staffing toward pre‑pandemic levels. Canadians should be assured that the government is doing what it can to ensure that the travel season bounces back smoothly.

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