Wings Magazine

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Editorial: Welcome, Mr. Valeri

There appears to be little time for Canada’s latest minister of transport to make a difference.


October 1, 2007
By David Carr

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It was out with the old and in with the who last month as newly
installed Prime Minister Paul Martin gave the nod to Tony Valeri to
replace David Collenette. First elected to Parliament in 1993, Valeri
represents the Ontario riding of Stoney Creek. There is no shortage of
air transport-related files piling up in the minister's in basket,
including fractional ownership regulations, out-of-control airport
authorities and securing Canada a seat at the US/European bilateral
negotiations.. But unlike fellow Hamilton-area MP Stan Keyes, who
chaired the Commons Transport Committee and was rumoured for the
transport portfolio, there is little in Valeri's CV to suggest this
former insurance broker and president of Canadian Financial Group is
familiar with the extent of the challenge that is before him.

That
is not necessarily a bad thing, although it is even less clear whether
Valeri is in for the long haul. The prime minister has assembled a
temporary cabinet intended to bridge the gap until the next election,
largely expected in May by which time Martin should have a grocery list
of newly elected star candidates to stock his cabinet with. Nor is it
certain that Valeri will carry the Liberal banner in that election
since redistribution of riding boundaries has locked the minister in a
nomination battle with former Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, a popular
Hamilton MP who shows no sign of going quietly into that good night.

Speaking
of the former transport minister: David Collenette joked a couple of
times about returning to the 70th annual meeting of the Air Transport
Association of Canada (ATAC) next November to pick up his honourary
lifetime member award. This magazine has often been critical of some of
Collenette's decisions and his reluctance to act in the industry's
interest. Some decisions – not all. And we recognize that during his
six years, Collenette butted heads with some influential adversaries,
including Treasury Board, which would view any relaxing of airport rent
as a hole in its own pocket.

Collenette was minister during one
of the most turbulent periods in Canadian air transport history.
Whatever vision the government had with respect to the merger of Air
Canada and Canadian, it was Robert Milton who said 'yes'. Likewise, it
was Canada 3000 that abandoned a successful business strategy for an
aggressive aquisition strategy that drove it into bankruptcy. There is
merit in Collenette's claim that when he first took on the portfolio,
Air Canada and Canadian Airlines controlled 88% of the domestic market.
Now 40% of domestic traffic sits in the cabins of independent rivals
such as Air Transat, CanJet, Jetsgo, WestJet and others.

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Collenette
navigated his portfolio through a difficult time made no easier by the
political inertia and infighting that overshadowed government policy
since the last general election. That is why ATAC should invite him to
next year's AGM as an honourary lifetime member.


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