Internal surveys by the Privy Council Office show that Canadians are unhappy with the federal government’s decision to bail out Air Canada.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the results were revealed in a report titled Continuous Qualitative Data Collection Of Canadians’ Views.
The survey showed that some Canadians were “vehemently opposed to the deal, questioning why the federal government should be required to step in to assist a failing company.”
“They saw the deal as a significant burden on taxpayers and generally held the view that private sector businesses should not need to rely on government funding to stay afloat,” researchers wrote.
“When told the Government of Canada had purchased stock in Air Canada, some then wondered about the federal governments’ investments in other publicly traded companies.”
Those opposed to the bailout “were of the view taxpayers should not be on the hook for assistance to companies like Air Canada.”
The study cost $1.6 million and was conducted by the Strategic Counsel in the form of focus groups.
In April 2020, the Liberal government pushed through a repurchase of $500 million in Air Canada stock even though the Canadian government had privatized the company three decades ago.
At the time, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland called the investment a “good deal.”
“This is a good and fair deal for Canada,” said Freeland. “Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill, this is a loan.”
At the height of the pandemic, Air Canada executives were forced to walk back on $10 million in bonuses after a public outcry. The bonuses were due to be paid out despite the deal with the federal government capping executive salaries at $1 million a year.
Air Canada and other airlines have been in dire straits due to a significant decline in air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a June 2020 submission to the Commons health committee, executives stated that it could take a long time to get back in the black.
“We don’t see our business recovering for another three years,” said Air Canada vice-president Ferio Pugliese.