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Manitoba MP saves the day for Liberal airline vote

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Doug Eyolfson, MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Doug Eyolfson, MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/5/2016 (1626 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA - Liberal Manitoba MP Doug Eyolfson saved his party from embarrassment on Monday afternoon by voting in favour of a bill he disagrees with to avoid letting the NDP defeat the bill with a"procedural stunt."

The bill is the amendment to the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which changes the airline's job requirements from keeping "overhaul centres" in Winnipeg, Montreal and Mississauga, Ont., to "aircraft maintenance activities" in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. The opposition is against the bill because critics say it gives too much wiggle room to the airline to decide how many and what kind of jobs to keep in those locations, rather than the previous requirements for overhaul jobs, which are considered the highest paying and most highly skilled jobs in the field.

NDP House Leader Peter Julian freely acknowledged a plan to try and catch the Liberals off guard on a Monday morning when typically there are fewer MPs around as many are still returning from their constituencies. The NDP meanwhile ensured its MPs knew to be there. Some like Winnipeg's Daniel Blaikie, changed their flights to arrive back in Ottawa earlier than usual.

Then the NDP pulled a bait and switch.

"We made the government believe that we were going to move amendments, and pulled them at the last second," Julian wrote in an email to NDP MPs Monday afternoon. "That forced the Speaker to call the unexpected vote. Since we caught the Liberals entirely by surprise with the Monday morning vote, many of their members were not in the House on time."

Liberal Whip Andrew Leslie worked feverishly to bring in as many Liberal MPs as possible. Some raced through traffic from the airport to get there. At least one was still out of breath after reaching his seat from a sprint.

One of the Liberals there was Eyolfson, who voted against Bill C-10 at second reading because he said he thinks it's not good for his constituents. His Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley riding is home to the hangars where the old Air Canada heavy maintenance used to be done. These are the jobs that were killed when Aveos Fleet Performance went bankrupt four years ago, and the ones this bill will mean Air Canada does not have to resurrect.

Eyolfson however said he figured out pretty quickly what the NDP was up to and wouldn't play into its hands.

"I really didn't want to be part of a procedural stunt," he said.

Eyolfson said nobody asked him to change his vote. He intends to vote against the bill when it comes up for third reading.

The resulting vote was a tie, with 139 votes in favour, 139 against. It is only the 11th time since Confederation a vote has ended in a tie.

"How about that," Speaker Geoff Regan said after the results were read. He then cast the deciding vote, which by precedence is to keep a bill up for debate. So Regan voted yes and the bill moved on to third reading.

Blaikie said the vote was the talk of the Hill afterwards.

"Everyone felt it was a moment," he said.

Two Quebec courts agreed Air Canada was violating the Air Canada Public Participation Act when it shipped heavy maintenance jobs out of Canada following the demise of Aveos in 2012. That case was headed for the Supreme Court but the airline is negotiating deals with Quebec and Manitoba that will see the two provinces withdraw their legal action in exchange for maintenance centres of excellence set up in Montreal and Winnipeg. Montreal will also get the maintenance work on the new Bombardier jets Air Canada intends to buy.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says he is changing the act to prevent further lawsuits and allow Air Canada to be more competitive.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Monday, May 16, 2016 at 4:35 PM CDT: Afternoon updates

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