September 23, 2020

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AirCan's downtown takeoff about cash: Katz

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/10/2011 (3275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Air Canada's decision to move its flight crews out of downtown Winnipeg came under increased fire on Wednesday as Mayor Sam Katz questioned the airline's motives while local leaders and aboriginal groups expressed their extreme disappointment.

Katz spoke to Air Canada president Calin Rovinescu Wednesday morning and said he believes the airline's decision was financially motivated.

In a Sept. 23 internal memo that was released publicly, Air Canada stated its flight crews will move from downtown's Radisson hotel to the Sandman hotel near the airport because "several downtown locations" are "susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity" due to intoxicated people displaced by "recent environmental issues."

Katz said that, during a phone conversation, Rovinescu told him the airline decided to move crews to the Sandman hotel near the airport after the company could not come to a financial agreement with other downtown hotels. Rovinescu told Katz flight crews may return to downtown Winnipeg after their contract with Sandman expires.

"I think going to the Sandman was a financial decision because obviously they could not come to an agreement with some of the other downtown hotels because I guess the price was higher," Katz said. "That's not to say that's what the entire decision was based on, but obviously finance comes into play at some point in time."

Air Canada vehemently denied Katz's assertions. In an email, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said it was "stated explicitly to Mayor Katz" that the decision was not in any way based on financial considerations.

"The safety and security of our employees was the sole factor in this decision," he said.

Fitzpatrick's statement said Air Canada looked at alternate hotels, including the Inn at The Forks and the Clarion at Polo Park, but the hotels were unwilling or unable to accommodate airline crews due to capacity.

Meanwhile, the airline's internal memo continues to spark backlash from aboriginal groups and Winnipeg leaders who have decried the note as racist.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs sent a letter to Rovinescu on Wednesday to convey "extreme disappointment." The AMC said it was "simply racist" to link the presence of displaced aboriginal people in Winnipeg's downtown core with an increased security risk.

According to Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization, 569 out of the 2,115 evacuees from the province's flood-affected First Nations are staying in Winnipeg hotels. But only 74 are staying in downtown Winnipeg, including 51 members of Lake St. Martin First Nation currently housed in the Marlborough Hotel.

AMC has asked Air Canada how they plan to rectify the situation and to respond within 48 hours.

University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy said the story has been very hurtful to flood evacuees from Lake St. Martin and other communities who were forced to leave their homes due to the rising waters. He called Air Canada's memo the "worst kind of stereotyping" and said the national carrier owes them an apology.

"The damage has been done and it's time they take some responsibility to help to make that mistake and turn it into an opportunity," Axworthy said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

What else happened at city hall on Wednesday:

-- NDP to fix roads? Mayor Sam Katz hopes the NDP's big win in Winnipeg will mean the province will work to address concerns about the city's crumbling roads. Katz said the NDP's support was strongest in Winnipeg, and he thinks the government is concerned about the people who got them elected and will work with the city to address concerns about "rotting infrastructure."

Katz has been at odds with the province over the best way to fund municipal infrastructure. The city has badgered the province for a one-point share of the existing PST to help fix Winnipeg's crumbling roads. Katz, some members of council and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities tried to make it an election issue, and Katz said most of council was disappointed that the city's infrastructure was not a priority for political parties.

 

-- Geese and cops: Council's executive policy committee voted in favour of referring two requests -- a permanent home for Winnipeg police bomb-squad equipment, and hiring staff to mitigate problems with Canada geese -- to its capital and operating budget process

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