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ATAC 2003: In a Holding Pattern

ATAC delivered strong messages in Quebec City. But it will be at least May 2004 before Ottawa begins to listen.


October 1, 2007
By David Carr

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210-quebecA WHO'S WHO OF Canadian air transport gathered in Quebec City in
November for the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) annual
general meeting and trade show. The list of delegates included industry
veterans and onetime rivals – Claude Taylor, the last president of Air
Canada to have his tenure begin and end with the now troubled airline
as a crown corporation, and Don Cameron, former president of CP Air and
past president and chairman of ATAC.

Cameron
amused a packed Monday morning auditorium by revisiting predictions he
had made 50 years earlier at an Air Industries and Transport
Association (AITA) conference in April 1954. We are not travelling
supersonic from Quebec to Vancouver in less than three hours, and
airport congestion has not been made easier by the use of the personal
helicopter.

Below the laughter, however, was an undercurrent in
Cameron's remarks that while technology exists to deliver on each of
the predictions he had made half a century earlier, the industry
continues to spin its wheels on fundamental issues. Indeed, there was
no better illustration of this than a comparison with last year's ATAC
meeting in Calgary. This year's issues were almost identical to those
of 12 months ago, including out-of-control infrastructure costs, making
airport authorities more accountable to airlines, clearing a path for
increased foreign ownership of Canadian airlines and equal treatment of
Canada's transportation partners. Case in point: Mark Hill,
vice-president of strategic planning for WestJet, estimates that his
airline can fly 3 million passengers free of charge on the $60 per
passenger subsidy the federal government hands over to VIA Rail each
year.

The plenary session, "Dear Prime Minister: What You Need
to Tell Your New Transport Minister" was lively and lacked the
hostility of last year's airports-versusairlines bearpit session when
it was suggested that if airport authorities can't afford to run their
airports, they should throw the keys back at Ottawa.


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