TORONTO — MP Jag Sahota, who helped usher in travel agent Heidi Hurst’s Commission Recall Petition last week, did a great job of quickly outlining the plight of travel agents in today’s Question Period on Parliament Hill.
Unfortunately her message may have fallen on uncomprehending ears.
In the rapid-fire Question Period format, and on the last day before the holiday break, Sahota, who represents the riding of Calgary Skyview, had just a minute or so to drive home the challenges facing Canadian travel agents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the House of Commons remotely from her office, Sahota said Canada’s travel agents are facing $200 million in commission recalls pending the federal government’s proposed financial assistance package, which Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on Nov. 8 is contingent on Canada’s airlines refunding airfares for travel cancelled in the wake of the pandemic and its travel restrictions.
Noting that Canada’s retail travel agent sector is approximately 80% women, Sahota said, “While the airline industry turns its back on these women, the federal government should not.”
MP Chris Bittle, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, responded, saying that he had heard from the industry on the issue as well, and said he wanted to give assurances that the federal government “will not spend one penny of taxpayer money” until Canada’s airlines can give their own assurances to Canadians about refunds, connectivity for regional communities with regional routes and more.
Not one word about travel agents and their plight. It wasn’t clear if Bittle misunderstood Sahota’s message about travel agents, or if he chose not to address it in his comments.
Hurst’s Commission Recall Petition now has 4,228 signatures. The petition can be seen and signed online here.
Consumers deserve their refunds, and travel agents deserve their commissions, says Hurst. “It’s not us against anybody,” Hurst told Travelweek earlier this month.