If Conservative Party leadership candidate Maxime Bernier gets his way, foreign ownership restrictions for some players in Canada's aviation industry will be scrapped and Porter Airlines will get the green light to fly Bombardier's CSeries jets.
Having previously released his views on telecom regulation and Canada's free-trade strategy, Bernier announced a plan on Wednesday that he says would help bring down costs for Canadian air travellers.
“We must have a real open-sky policy. So if other carriers from the UK or the U.S. want to come to Canada they must be able to do that – and offer services to Canadians," Bernier told BNN in an interview.
The Quebec MP has made privatization and deregulation a central theme in his campaign to take over as Tory leader. Bernier is calling for the abolishment of foreign ownership limits on airlines that only serve domestic markets, the reversal of the government's “bad decision” to ban jets from Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, and more competition in the industry.
Bernier says he would encourage more budget carriers by lifting foreign ownership restrictions on airlines that fly within Canada.
“The difference will be that very low-cost carriers will be able to offer services in Canada because they need capital,” he said, referring to the benefits of lifting foreign ownership restrictions. "Right now the restriction is at 25 per cent so by raising it to 100 per cent they will be able to have capital from outside and offer these [low-cost carrier] services to Canadians."
He also wants to privatize Canada's 26 major airports, which have been governed as not-for-profits since the 1990s -- a period that has resulted in airports paying the federal government about $5 billion in rent, which he says increases costs for travellers.
The previous Conservative government also promised to ease foreign ownership restrictions on Canadian airlines, but never did -- Bernier says he doesn't know why that action was never taken.
“Many Canadians do not fly, or rarely do, because they find it too expensive. Many others cross the border and fly from an American airport because it’s cheaper there. To tolerate such a situation is to show disrespect to Canadian consumers,” Bernier said in a statement.
With files from The Canadian Press
Editor’s note: This version of the story clarifies the scope of Maxime Bernier’s plan to remove foreign ownership restrictions. His representative confirmed the proposal does not apply to Air Canada, WestJet or Porter.