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RBC, Brookfield CEOs Join Push Against Trudeau Travel Rules

Danielle Bochove

(Bloomberg) -- The heads of 27 Canadian companies, including the CEOs of two large banks and Brookfield Asset Management Inc., are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers to ease air travel restrictions.

Most international flights have been canceled and the U.S.-Canada border has been shut to most travelers since March 21 -- a policy that was extended to July 21. Last week, Air Canada Chief Executive Officer Calin Rovinescu called the restrictions “disproportionate” as the coronavirus outbreak improves in most parts of Canada.

Now Rovinescu has the backing of the chief executive officers of nine companies in the S&P/TSX 60, who are among the 27 signatories to a letter published in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday.

“We are now entering a new phase, one in which we must find a responsible way to co-exist with Covid-19 until there is a vaccine. This includes prudently and thoughtfully opening aviation and lifting restrictions to safely resume travel throughout all provinces of Canada, as well as from select countries,” the executives wrote.

Signatories include top executives from:

Banks: Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Nova ScotiaCommunications: BCE, Telus and Rogers CommunicationsEnergy: Enbridge, TransAlta and HuskyAviation: Air Canada, WestJet and PorterTransportation: Canadian National RailwayManufacturing: Magna International, LinamarAsset Management: Brookfield, Fairfax Financial

Canada has seen a reduction of new cases and deaths from Covid-19 in recent weeks as it finally quells an outbreak in its two largest cities that has claimed thousands of lives. The country had nearly 100,000 virus cases and 8,254 deaths as of Wednesday evening.

Policy makers in Canada have also been watching the rise in cases in several large U.S. states as they weigh a loosening of travel rules. Air travel between the U.S. and Canada has grown sharply in recent years, reaching 26.4 million passengers on scheduled flights in 2018, according to Statistics Canada data.

Air travel is “critical for the entire Canadian economy,” the executives wrote. “In addition to the human tragedy resulting from the virus, the economic impact has also been unprecedented.”

Air Recycled

Mike McNaney, CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said the country should follow the move of other regions like the European Union, which has allowed travel between member states. The EU is also targeting inbound travel next month from other jurisdictions that have flattened the virus curve and are following new travel protocols, McNaney said.

Travel between the U.S. and Canada should also be considered on a targeted basis, McNaney said on BNN Bloomberg TV.

The airline industry has worked hard to make flying as safe and comfortable as possible, he added. Passengers will see masks, health questionnaires, and temperature checks at airports. “What they do not see is the incredible expansion in scope and frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of aircraft cabins as well as airports,” he added.

Contrary to popular belief, the air in cabins is not stagnant but recycled every several minutes with a hospital-grade air filter that captures 99% of impurities, McNaney added.

(Updates with comments from industry group CEO in last section.)

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