September 15, 2023 By Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says the union representing WestJet cabin crew should apologize for trying to silence free speech.
Poilievre used the public announcement system to give a 45-second speech on Sunday night on board a WestJet plane that was headed to Calgary from Quebec City after the Conservative party convention.
After video of the speech circulated online, CUPE Alberta’s local 4070 president said it was disappointing the airline allowed a politician to use the PA system and that cabin crew had no input in the decision.
The union wanted WestJet and Poilievre to apologize for putting the cabin crew in that situation.
Speaking in Vancouver on Thursday, Poilievre said the cabin crew asked him to speak multiple times on that flight, and the union should be the one apologizing.
“I think that the union should apologize for trying to silence freedom of speech. The crew invited me to give a speech and they did that multiple times,” Poilievre said.
“And I think it’s because people who work on airplanes, people who work in restaurants, people who work building things love my message.”
Following Poilievre’s remarks Thursday, a spokesman for the union insisted WestJet management directed cabin crew to provide access to the announcement system and give Poilievre a tour of the flight deck.
“As mentioned in our previous statement, this direction is contrary to WestJet’s own policy which states the PA system is for use by flight crew only,” said Lou Arab in an email.
WestJet’s CEO said Wednesday that the flight was specifically added to the schedule because of extra demand related to the convention and that most of the passengers were Conservative delegates.
Still, he also said they’d revisit the policy.
“The leader of the party was given the opportunity to greet delegates onboard (which is not unusual), but this was not a political endorsement nor should it be interpreted as such,” Alexis von Hoensbroech wrote in his own statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We are non-partisan by nature and will revisit our policy on this.”
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