HomePolitics'I blame it on Covid': Alghabra refuses government responsibility for delays

‘I blame it on Covid’: Alghabra refuses government responsibility for delays

If you were looking to learn something more about Canada’s airports and what is causing the delays you would be sadly disappointed after Omar Algabera’s incoherent rant blaming Covid-19 and claiming the government doesn’t need to do anything different.

At the transport Committee meeting on Friday the Minister of Transport face a barrage of questions that he either couldn’t answer or just didn’t want to answer truthfully because he provided what we all have come to expect from this Liberal government and that is non answers.

“There are those who have a vested interest in embellishing reality and undermining confidence in our airline sector only to score political points,” he said. “ArriveCAN is actually helping process arrivals much faster and helping reduce congestion.”

Throughout the committee meeting all the witnesses testified the only reason the ArriveCAN app is around is to check irrelevant vaccination statuses. Melissa Lantsman asked if the mandates were removed is there any reason to keep the ArriveCAN app and no one could say yes.

Conservative MP Tony Baldinelli, who represents Niagara Falls, argued that Canada should follow the lead of other countries and eliminate vaccination requirements while also scraping ArriveCAN app.

“Sixty countries around the world have abandoned all air travel pandemic restrictions, including most of our European allies. So why does this government continue to cling to these restrictions, which only do a disservice and disincentivize travel to this country,” he said.

Alghabra uses deflection and goes off on an irrelevant rant complaining about the Conservatives supporting the Freedom Convoy when he is supposed to answer for the several months of ongoing border delays.

“It’s unfortunate that the Conservatives never took COVID seriously. It’s unfortunate that the Conservatives supported these illegal blockades blocked our borders and had a massive impact on border communities have not apologized for it to this day,” he said.

However cross-border trade in Ontario and Alberta was up 16 per cent in February compared to the same time last year.

Baldinelli said there is about 40,000 people his community that work in the tourism sector and they have been hit hard from the reduced border traffic and wo years of pandemic restrictions but this year will be a self inflicted.

“We’ve lost two tourism years because of COVID. This year if we lose it, it’s self-inflicted, and there’s nobody to blame but this Liberal government,” he said.

Baldinelli said that Alghabra’s own team has said at the border crossing traffic is down 50% but the wait times are up over 2 hours and called out Alghabra to back up his statement the ArriveCAN app is not impacting wait times

“who told you minister that ArriveCAN is not having any impact on wait times?” Baldinelli asked, but Alghabra did not give an answer and couldn’t provide any sources.

While claiming everything is getting better, Alghabra is unable to provide an answer to how many complaints the CTA has resolved in the last year.

“I don’t know the answer” he responded when he was asked.

When a complaint is launched to the CTA, they have 20 days to respond to the complaint but the Minister of Transport has no clue if any of them have been resolved while the backlog pile continues to grow.

“Minister if there was no scientific basis for mandates as has been indicated by officials. Why would your government institute a policy that infringed on Canadians rights that didn’t have scientific basis and then call a snap election a couple days later?” Conservative MP Mike Barrett asked.

Omar fails when trying for a “HAH Gotcha” moment when he tries to mock Conservative MP Mike Barrett by repeating “you mean the unscientific mandates” that were brought in by…, and listed a few examples.

“Minister I’m talking about the mandates implemented by the federal government at airports governments around the world I’d like to quote one of your officials in court documents that were reported on by Rupa Subramanya” said MP Mike Barrett

“one of those officials is on the call today actually and let me quote in an email to the extent that updated data exists or that there is clear evidence of the safety benefit of vaccination on the users or other stakeholders of the transportation system. It would be helpful to assist transport Canada supporting its measures that’s a quote from Aaron McCrorie. Now the mandates were set to be implemented but your department didn’t even have the information that uh that indicated it was necessary or based in science”

to just circle back to your question about the science that’s being followed by municipalities and provinces they have all eliminated their mandates since yet you have not so if you’re following the same science they are why have they all lifted their mandates but you have not”

Conservative MP Mike Barrett asks if the federal government is following the same science as the provinces which have lifted their mandates, why does the federal government cling to the vaccine mandate at the border.

Omar Alghabra tries to justify mandates based on old out of date science and claiming Canada needs to keep the mandate because a couple other countries still have them. The report of the study Alghabra is talking about from UBC is found here while the original study is posted here.

“PHAC internal reports suggest that air travel had almost no impact on Covid community spread less than one percent so it is questionable why those would still be in place” said Mike Barrett following up with asking Omar Alghabra to focus on the federal governments mandates that he has implemented. “What are the current regulations for air and train travel in Canada with respect to Covid-19.”

Alghabra claims there is many countries around the world that require a proof of vaccination for international travel, “Mr. Chair there are still many countries around the world that require a proof of vaccination for international travel your mandates”

Mr. Barrett had to snap Alghabra back in to focus by saying “your mandates minister I’ve got less than a minute”

Alghabra admits while most federal mandates have been “suspended” for domestic travel or leaving the country but there is still vaccine mandates for entering Canada.

“Currently the Canadian government has suspended our vaccine mandate for our transportation sector so there is no requirement for domestic or international travel for people who are leaving the country whether they want to get on a plane or a train”

Melissa Lantsman reminded Alghabra that Canada occupies rank one and two for worlds worst airports “We know that Pearson and Montreal have been ranked number one and number two of worst airports in the world. That is an international embarrassment.,”

“All the delays and disruptions, there’s a lot of finger pointing at airlines, at airports, at passengers themselves.” MP Melissa Lantsman said adding “Does the minister believe the government bears any responsibility for any of it? Yes or no?”

“I blame it on COVID.” Omar Alghabra said

While there are still issues, he claimed that air travel is getting better and more dependable. He said that ArriveCAN speeds the procedure by gathering vaccination data in advance.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that ArriveCAN is causing any problems,” he told MPs at the commons transport committee. However if there was no Covid-19 vaccine mandates to enter Canada there is absolutely no logical reason to keep ArriveCAN app

Representatives of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Bridge Authority and a group that advocates for duty-free shops have urged the government to end ArriveCAN in recent weeks, arguing it worsens wait times and reduces traffic.

In a June testimony to MPs, Customs and Immigrations Union President Mark Webber testified that the app forced his members to work as IT consultants to assist users complete filling in ArriveCAN

“Every Border Officer working on the frontline will tell you that the implementation of the ArriveCan application has seen processing times skyrocket” he said at the time.


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Jordan is a casual reporter for BC Rise


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