Trudeau expects airlines to cut costs of N.L. airfares as reopening proceeds
'We're watching the prices,' says PM
Less than a week after the Newfoundland and Labrador government revealed its opening plan, the prime minister says he's keeping an eye on flight prices to ensure residents of the province don't draw the short straw.
Trudeau was a guest speaker during the St. John's Board of Trade's "Road to Recovery" conference, which kicked off Monday and runs until Wednesday. The prime minister answered questions from the organization's members, one of which was about concerns that airline travel prices in N.L. will skyrocket if there's a lag between the supply and demand.
"We're all very hopeful that things will go extremely well, but you hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and that's where we're watching very closely on airlines," said Trudeau during the virtual conference. "We're watching very closely on connections, we're watching very closely on reopening, we're watching the prices, we're watching tourism.
"We're watching all these different factors to make sure that if there are gaps or challenges that are going to slow our recovery that we address them."
As Canadian provinces reopen to recreational travel, some airline companies are offering heavily discounted fares, but what that means for Newfoundland and Labrador remains to be seen.
Trudeau didn't say what actions the federal government would take to ensure airline fares won't spike, but said the tourism industry is an economic driver across the country, particularly in rural and remote areas.
"Holding on with the wage subsidy, with the business accounts, with the various supports we have, actually all line up so our economy can come roaring back faster," he said.
"The faster the economy bounces back — because people just have to flick on a light switch rather than starting from scratch — the better off we are and more growth happens."
As for opening Canada to international travellers, and competing for international tourism, Trudeau said the first priority remains keeping people safe. Travellers need to be fully vaccinated before coming to Canada, he said, adding that a fourth wave of COVID-19 would be "devastating" for the economy and morale. He said a combination of low case counts and high vaccine rates will give the country an advantage in attracting travellers.
The province's challenges
The prime minister was also asked questions about Muskrat Falls, electricity rate mitigation, provincial debt and the province's oil and gas industry.
Trudeau didn't get into specifics but said the federal government supports Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry even as countries move toward green economies.
"We're going to continue, as a world, to rely on oil and gas for a considerable time still, even as we look to transform to a lower and eventually a net zero economy," he said.
"Newfoundland and Labrador have advantages because of the low carbon content in your average barrels of oil."
Trudeau said he has read The Big Reset, an economic report on the province's fiscal future tabled by a civilian team established by Premier Andrew Furey, and is up to speed on the province's budget.
While he wouldn't say what the plans are for Muskrat Falls and rate mitigation, Trudeau said he will be meeting with Furey in the coming weeks on the subject.
"Our government is committed to working with the province to ensure the Muskrat Falls project remains on stable financial footing," he said.
"I very much understand the concerns and the pressures.… I can tell you that my commitment to make sure that we are supporting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians every step of the way will hold."