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Streamlined immigration program a 'Band-Aid solution': Pilots union

Members of the Air Line Pilots Association demonstrate amid contract negotiations outside the WestJet headquarters in Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 31, 2023. The union representing 8,000 Canadian pilots says Ottawa's newly streamlined immigration program fails to address the root of a dire labour shortage problem in aviation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

OTTAWA — The union representing 11,000 Canadian pilots says a newly streamlined immigration program that looks to fill job gaps in transport fails to cut to the core of a dire labour shortage in aviation.

Tim Perry, president of the Air Line Pilots Association's Canadian chapter, says recent changes to the country's Express Entry system may offer a temporary fix but still amount to what he calls a Band-Aid solution to the lack of flight crews.

In May, the federal government announced the launch of category-based selection for its Express Entry program, looking to forge a swifter immigration path for workers with expertise in key fields.

The overhaul put a stress on pilots, plane mechanics, air traffic controllers and truck drivers in the transport category — one of six groupings that include health care, agriculture and science and technology.

On Monday, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said the first round of invitations for transport occupations would occur this week in a bid to bolster skilled talent in the sector.

Perry is calling on Ottawa and industry players to train more pilots and make the career more attractive as a dearth of aviators continues to plague airlines, contributing to route cancellations in some cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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