Monday, March 8 was International Women’s Day.
First celebrated in 1911, International Women’s Day was an opportunity for us to not only reflect on the tremendous accomplishments the women before us have achieved, but to also reflect upon the continued work that remains to be done in promoting equality of opportunity throughout our society.
I have been very fortunate to be inspired by so many strong and hard-working women in my life, and in my professional career.
For example, in our Conservative caucus in Ottawa, we have strong leadership being displayed every week by our Deputy Leader, Candice Bergen.
As well, throughout this pandemic, those policy portfolios that have been greatly impacted – health, public safety and emergency preparedness, and transport – are led by strong and competent leaders in Michelle Rempel Garner, Shannon Stubbs, and Stephanie Kusie.
Our Conservative Opposition has been well served by these women, and many others who work relentlessly every day to hold this federal government to account for their faulty policy decisions, poor judgment, and mismanagement.
Despite disguising himself as a feminist prime minister, Justin Trudeau has failed miserably to stand up for and support women throughout this pandemic.
For instance, in Canada’s travel and tourism industry, which is a major industry for our local economy in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the impacts of COVID-19 have devastated segments of this sector, which are primarily led by female entrepreneurs and workers.
Independent travel advisers and travel agencies are one such example. In this sector, 85 per cent of all travel advisors in Canada are women.
The revenue travel advisors generate is 100 per cent commission-based, and takes on average 139 to 317 days from when a customer books their trip, until when these advisors receive the commission (payment) for their work.
On day one of the pandemic, one year ago, this sector was immediately shuttered when the federal government closed our borders and halted all forms of international and domestic travel.
Regardless, independent travel advisors were still extremely busy, working to cancel booked trips, and rebooking them in the future, despite great uncertainty about when life would return back to normal.
Although they were working to support their clients, these advisors were not being paid for their efforts.
In addition, as airlines began to refund passengers, travel advisors were forced to return their commissions, despite the fact they completed their work and had already been paid.
This has meant some travel advisors have actually lost money, which they had earned from trips previously booked, including some commissions being clawed back from as early as 2019. These advisors had even claimed and paid income tax on some of this income.
Can you imagine being paid your income, and then having to pay it all back months later, without any notice?
Consequently, many travel advisors have had no income for over a year now, and there is still no end in sight nor firm decision on whether or not more of their commission will be required to be repaid — despite the work they have already completed.
If the government wanted to help these workers, they would have provided immediate financial aid to our Canadian airline sector at the start of this pandemic, with consideration and supports given to travel advisors to ensure their commissions would not be clawed back, as part of any airline refund program for passengers.
Hard-working women deserve better treatment from this government, and our Conservative caucus is demanding just that.
Last week, despite Liberal opposition, Conservatives secured the support of the House of Commons and passed a motion that calls on the federal government to provide more support to those who have been hardest hit, including those in hospitality, travel and tourism, charities, and small and medium-sized businesses.
While airline support programs and funding have been established in Europe and the U.S., Canadian airlines continue to wait. The longer the uncertainty, the greater the concern for those who not only work in the airlines sector directly, but for those independent travel advisors, travel agencies and tour companies, who support this once-thriving travel and tourism sector.
As I reflect on the significance of International Women’s Day, I also wanted to provide my thanks for the tremendous support I receive each and every day from the hard-working women in my offices in both Niagara and in Ottawa.
Thank you for all you do, April, Anna, Jennifer, and Sandra.
Above all, I am so fortunate to have the love, caring and committed support of my wife, Carol, who has been working hard for us all on the front lines of this pandemic as a nurse with Niagara Region Public Health.
Thank you to all the women who contribute and sacrifice so much in their lives, to make our world a better place.