MONTREAL – Air Canada has asked the country’s top court to overturn a Quebec ruling that would require the airline to keep its maintenance operations in the country.
In its legal filing with the Supreme Court in Ottawa, Air Canada said that the appeal court’s ruling “jeopardizes” the main objective of privatizing the formerly government-owned airline — to create a “viable and competitive company.”
Quebec launched its lawsuit against the Montreal-based airline after Aveos Fleet Performance, which did much of Air Canada’s aircraft maintenance, closed in 2012 in a move that laid off 2,600 employees, including about 1,700 in Montreal.
The province argued that Air Canada (TSX:AC) breached its legal obligations under the 1988 Air Canada Public Participation Act, which required the airline to keep heavy maintenance operations in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.
The province won the original court decision in 2013 and the Quebec Court of Appeal decision in November.
The airline has argued that it respected the law by continuing to conduct aircraft maintenance at its three Canadian facilities in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga, Ont. It also selected maintenance repair and overhaul providers Avionor and Premier Aviation in Quebec and others outside the country.
The airline has also said that the Quebec and Manitoba governments — Manitoba intervened to support Quebec’s lawsuit —have no jurisdiction because aviation is a federal matter.
The union that represented Aveos workers said the country’s highest court may grant the airline’s request to hear the appeal because it involves an important federal law that affects several provinces.
“But it’s still disappointing to see Air Canada fight this battle against the former Aveos workers and against the federal law,” David Chartrand, Quebec co-ordinator of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said in a news release.