Visiting Largest Mosque in Canada

Sunday, 5 February, 2017

In light of the Quebec City tragedy (“Six dead men. Six widows. Seventeen fatherless children. Five people in hospital.“),  I decided to take time to visit the Baitun Nur Mosque (the largest mosque in Canada which happens to be in Calgary) yesterday afternoon to stand shoulder and shoulder with my Muslim brothers and sisters in this sad time.

I ended up getting a personal tour of the mosque by a very nice Mr. Sultan Mahmood (who sits on the executive council of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at). Sultan took time to talk to me even as he had to leave a scheduled meeting early where President of the executive council and other members were meeting with a representative from the Alberta Premier’s Office.

The way I see it, we need no permission from anyone to do the decent thing. And you can do what is within your power (big or small) to try to help and show support. Visiting a local mosque in your area is a good start just to say hi and to tell our fellow Muslim Canadian brothers and sisters that you care and will stand up and speak for them.

Here are some photos (with captions) from yesterday. I asked a question about the carpet markings and Sultan explained that they are designed so that people stand shoulder to shoulder with others. And of course, the direction of the halls of worship are all facing Mecca. A quick research in Wikipedia taught me the word Qibla which is “the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during salah prayers. It is fixed as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.

Sultan and I agreed that it would be a tragedy if we Canadians did not learn from the painful pages of history of the Internment of Japanese Americans, Chinese head tax. And I will add our shameful history of the Rejection of the Komagata Maru, can still teach us lessons today in the Trump presidency.

P.S. By the way, I saw a Facebook post by Kent Hehr (Calgary MP and Minister of Veterans Affairs) tonight and I left the following comment:

I’m saddened to see the vile and heartless comments left in this post at a time when 6 of our fellow Canadians got murdered, leaving their wives and 17 orphan children behind. Why people feel they can dispose common courtesy when sit behind the keyword?

I had some free time yesterday so I did a quick Google to find the address of the Baitun Nur Mosque, the largest mosque in Canada which happens to be in Calgary. I got a wonderful personal tour of the mosque by a nice gentleman who took time to show me around leaving a meeting he was attending.

Whatever religion you believe in or not, one can choose to be a candle of light to fight the onslaught of darkness from the US and around us in some parts of Canada.

I decided to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Muslim brothers and sisters yesterday by paying a personal visit to the mosque. I need no permission from anyone to do the decent thing. And you can do whatever you can to help and show support too.

For those who don’t know how to behave decently in face of deaths and orphan children, I mourn for the lost of your basic humanity in face of partisan attacks of those you disagree with politically.


Why I think President Trump has made the world a much worse place on Day One of his presidency

Saturday, 21 January, 2017

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*** Why I think President Trump has made the world a much worse place on Day One of his presidency *** //I respect my FB friend for his professional work but I disagree with him. Here is my comment (with added web links & slight updates).//

XXXX, One day I would love to chat in person. Until then, here is my wordy take of why I think President Trump has made the world a much worse place on Day One. Starting with the least damaging (the mere “monetary” damages). Trump said the following in his Inauguration Speech and he has said all of these during the campaign so they are not new.

1) “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;
>>> International trades benefit everyone or we just don’t do it. Stances like this is getting China, Canada, etc worrying about trade wars. For the record, //Canada is the top export destination for 35 states. Nearly 9 million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.//

2) “Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;
>>> Forgoing defence of NATO, Japan, etc?? Should they pay? How much? Think like a foreign leader for a moment. Which sovereign leader is stupid enough to be held hostage for a king’s ransom for its defence? This will force the world into an arms race? EU politicians are taking notice and starting to distrust US. Putin’s mission accomplished in Day One of Trump’s presidency. Fantastic!

3) “We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own;” & “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
>>> This is probably one of the saddest part of this cluster-beep.
Spoiler alert, I’m giving the answer before I tell the story.
We Canadians are PROUD of us NOT putting Canada First! We PRIDE ourselves of putting “Others First”!

Some Americans have very short memory. On one sunny 9/11 day years ago, some evil people thought of turning planes into high-tech guided missiles with built-in human collateral protection. In that uncertain time, Canada let ~200 flights fully loaded with people (potential terrorists flown missiles) diverted to our major cities like Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto (all with millions of people).

The “Others” we Canadians put “First” happened to be thousands of Americans and people visiting US! I would say the probability of me winning the lottery last night is higher than Trump coming to aid of Canadians if the shoes were swapped.

I’m human but I try to live by the Golden Rule when I can. What kind of horrible world we live in if we always and only put ourselves first?!

Right now, with “America First”, it feels like a great friend has flipped and become a psychopath.

And 1, 2, 3 and many more are the reasons why Trump Day One is the worst day of any US President’s Day One!

P.S. For me to write this wordy blah blah blah, I had to take a strong dose of Trump-vaccination. So I watch a 9 minute CBC News video of U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson paying tribute to the town of Gander, N.L. for “its generosity on 9/11, hailing its residents for their grace and good humour and representing “the best of us.”

//“This could well be the motto of this town: ‘Without waiting to be asked,'” Jacobson said.
He spoke about one stranded passenger, a child, who turned four in Gander soon after 9/11. All his gifts were stuck on the plane he had been on, so to make him feel better, a local Gander family threw him a party.
“They consoled and they cooked, they cooked and they cooked,” Jacobson recalled.//

Ref (with video, an easy Google): Gander on 9/11 told ‘you were the best of us’ CBC News Posted: Sep 11, 2011


PM Justin Trudeau surprised Canada is a bilingual country

Wednesday, 18 January, 2017

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20170221 update: CBC News, “Trudeau apologizes to anglophone woman for answering in French at Sherbrooke town hall

CTV News, “PM apologizes for answering English speaker in French at Quebec town hall

====

As a former teacher, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sure acted like he needs a few quick lessons. Here are two free lessons from a Canadian to his PM that is facing heat over his decision to speak French only at town hall (CBC News with video).

Lesson 1: Canada is a bilingual country with English and French as official languages. This FB comment elegantly captured what I think. (emphasis added)

Canada is a bilingual country regardless of what province you’re in.

If a Canadian citizen asks the prime minister a question in one of the two official languages the polite thing is to answer in that language.

Otherwise the person asking the question has no idea what’s being said.

Lesson 2: Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians our “Mobility Rights“. S.6(2)a of our Charter states,

“Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right to move to and take up residence in any province

It is surprising that the Prime minister was so easily ‘surprised‘ to be “asked so many questions in English in Quebec’s Eastern Townships”. Has the PM repealed our “Mobility Rights” and now we need his permission to move? Are English speakings Canadians not allowed to live in Quebec’s Eastern Townships? How about French speaking Canadians living in Calgary, Alberta? Puzzling.

P.S. On a serious note. Bilingual Canadians don’t need to be lectured by the PM. The PM can choose to answer the question in BOTH English (language preferred/decided by the questioner) and then repeat in French (if he wishes)! I expect no less if a French question is asked in Alberta. Answer the question in BOTH French and then English! #PMisOurPublicServant #PMisNOTaboveFederalPublicServant

I don’t expect my PM to never make mistake but I expect him to correct his mistakes quickly. Hopefully he has learned his lessons from this.

P.P.S. I don’t mind my last PM (Mr. Harper) has little charisma but I know he would never dare to face Canadians like this, not after Mr. Harper gained absolute power and showed his disdain of the press (who were there to ask questions on behalf of all Canadians).

Jan 19, 2017 Update: Read the rest of this entry »


Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds & Blake Lively

Monday, 16 January, 2017

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RyanDeadpoolReynolds (twitter) & Blake Lively are the coolest couple. (ref: “The Shallows is a 2016 American survival thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, written by Anthony Jaswinski and starring Blake Lively.”)

* I LOVE this GQ profile of Ryan that spotlights his fun and determination to get Deadpool made and his relationship with Blake: “Ryan Reynolds on his Deadpool Obsession, Meeting Blake Lively, and His New Film, Life
* Just Google Image search “deadpool nicholas sparks billboard”
* THR, “How ‘Deadpool’s’ Marketing Won Over Fanboys (and Everyone Else)
* There are SO MANY references in Deadpool, read & enjoy what people said here!

Ryan Reynolds: “Deadpool” | Talks at Google

Ryan Reynolds on Deadpool and worshipping his daughter | The Jess Cagle Interview | PEOPLE (extremely good interview, many quotables!)

Deadpool Cast Interview with Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, TJ Miller and Ed Skrein

Ryan Reynolds Gets Roasted By His Twin Brother | GQ (very funny!)

Blake Lively: The Age of Adaline Interview (27 minutes) Read the rest of this entry »


Passenger rights advocate calls Federal Court of Appeal NewLeaf ruling a “Game Changer” as Court clarifies Flair Air is responsible

Friday, 16 December, 2016

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(note: see Dec 20th news updates below with @FlairAirlines & @newleaftravel comments Win-win-win for #CDN travellers as a result from @AirPassRightsCA court challenge.)

In a short/precise and yet powerful judgement (PDF file) by the Federal Court of Appeal today dismissing an appeal (2016 FCA 314) by Air Passenger Rights advocate Dr. Gabor Lukacs, the court effectively also clarified and defined the source of protection that Dr. Lukacs has been seeking for passengers. While the reseller, NewLeaf in this case, is not required to hold an air license, ultimately the licensed air carrier, Flair Air in this case, is responsible.

Lukacs explained in an in-depth Skype video interview with this reporter stating [emphasis added],

The appeal was dismissed but the reasons [see note 1 below for more details] really resolved a very significant issue that now it is clear that passengers will have a recourse against Flair [note: Flair is the “licensed air carrier” in this court case] no matter what. […]

The Federal Court of Appeal made it clear that the fact that NewLeaf is involved in selling tickets still keeps Flair fully responsible for the entire operation. So Flair cannot walk away from any kind of responsibility on the basis that ‘it wasn’t us, it was NewLeaf’. If Flair choose to enter into this kind of relationship with NewLeafFlair will have to face the consequences if anything goes wrong.”

Lukacs interview re 2016 Federal Court of Appeal judgement

Lukacs looks at the judgement as a win for passengers because from the passenger’s point of view Flair is responsible and can no longer point at NewLeaf if things go wrong. The ruling makes it clear that Flair is responsible to the passengers whether they have a contract with them or not.

NewLeaf’s reaction to the judgement

NewLeaf’s reaction to the judgement via Facebook (screen capture & Facebook link),

The federal court of appeal ruling that has dismissed the case between Gabor Lukacs and the CTA/NewLeaf essentially means the courts rule in favour of Canadians continuing to save money on air travel with NewLeaf!!

It is true that the case has been dismissed but one wonders if both NewLeaf‘s and Flair‘s legal teams have time to really carefully read and digest the full implications of the court ruling yet?

Flair’s reaction to the judgement

At press time, Flair has not issued any press release re this judgement yet and its publicly published “Tariff – Flair Airlines Ltd for NewLeaf flying” remains the July 22, 2016 version.

Given Mr. Chris Lapointe, Vice-President Commercial Operations for Flair stated a few months ago in July 2016 that “it’s not built into our financial model for Flair “to foot the bill and take the risk of people being stranded” (see “note 2 financial model” below). One has to wonder if there will be any serious business renegotiations between NewLeaf and Flair? Or is Flair now willing and able to accept the financial risks and responsibilities (e.g. “prescribed liability insurance”) that the Court of Appeal has now clarified it has?

References

note 1: Quoting from paragraph 8 of the judgement (2016 FCA 314) [emphasis added],

Further, the licenced air carrier [reporter’s note: Flair in this case] will be required to hold the prescribed liability insurance. Put more broadly, licenced air carriers are regulated under the Act when they provide an air service. The involvement of a reseller does not obviate the requirement that licensees comply with all of the obligations imposed upon them under the Act.”

note 2 “financial model”: In a transcript of a conversation between Lukcas and Mr. Chris Lapointe, Vice-President Commercial Operations for Flair Airlines Ltd taken on July 8, 2016 filed with the Federal Court of Appeal (top of electronic page 189 of this Motion Record (PDF file) – Court File No.:A-242-16) [emphasis added],

Mr. Lukcas: […] And, you know, if Flair is willing to foot the bill and take the risk of people being stranded and look after —

Mr. Lapointe: No, we’re not. We’re not. I’m not — no, no, we’re not. We don’t — it’s not built into our — it’s not built into our financial model, Gabor. We’re not — I’m not saying that we’re going to — we did that once before, it cost us a quarter-million dollars, and we did it and because we did it — because we realized we had to do it, right.

Dec 16, 2016 Update: Quoting Financial Post “Both sides claim victory after Federal Court of Appeal dismisses NewLeaf case” report by Kristine Owram (with emphasis & reporter’s note added),

“I was thrilled that (the court) actually saw that the CTA had got their ruling correct,” said NewLeaf chief executive Jim Young. “We weren’t worried too much about it in the past because we knew we’d prevail but I was glad to see that it’s now closed.”

Lukacs said his main goal was to ensure passengers are protected, and he was relieved to see the court’s finding that “passengers will still be covered, and so protected, by the terms and conditions of carriage set out in the tariff issued by the licensed air carrier operating the aircraft on which the passengers travel” — in this case, Flair.

“This is a case of losing the battle and winning the war,” Lukacs said. “I was extremely pleased with how concerned the court was about protection of passengers.”

Flair president Jim Rogers did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but he indicated in July that his airline was not responsible for passenger protection since it is only supplying the aircraft. [reporter’s note: This echoes the transcribed phone conversation between Lukacs and Mr. Chris Lapointe, Vice-President Commercial Operations for Flair Airlines described in note 2 above.]

The contract with the passenger is with NewLeaf and they have a passenger protection plan in place,” Rogers said at the time.

Dec 16, 2016 10:37pm Update: CBC Calgary has this report of NewLeaf Calgary launch, “Up in the air: Will Canada’s newest air travel company take off? – There will be a third option if you’re flying home for the holidays

Dec 20, 2016 11:01am update: Quoting CBC News to clarify NewLeaf and Flair Air’s positions, “Flair Air liable for passenger rights, not ticket reseller NewLeaf, judge says” (with emphasis and reporter’s notes added),

Jim Young, CEO of NewLeaf Travel Company, said he was happy with the appeal’s dismissal. He said Flair Air and NewLeaf had already been operating under the agreement that the airline was ultimately responsible for ensuring passenger rights. (reporter’s note: This clarification by Young is significant.)

“In fact, the tariff that we had published is still the tariff today. We’ve made no changes to it,” Young said.

Tariffs are the agreements between passengers and airlines that lay out rights and responsibilities. The Canadian Transportation Agency recommends airline passengers treat tariffs like a contract, and that they understand the terms and conditions spelled out in them.

Young said if passengers run into an issue such as a flight cancellation or lost baggage, they should first contact his company, NewLeaf, to resolve the issue. Young said the first response is referring passengers to the tariff.

“We operate on behalf of Flair as the passenger reservation system,” he said. “We accommodate them based on the terms and conditions in the tariff.”

Passengers who are not happy with NewLeaf’s response can still file a formal complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency, but they would do so naming Flair, the airline operator.

Flair Air owner Jim Rogers confirmed his company is ultimately responsible for meeting the tariff agreement with passengers.

He said his company is “pleased to accept the decision as per our tariff.” (reporter’s note: This clarification by Roger is very significant and gets passengers the protection they deserve without ambiguity.)


A Look Back: 10 Years of Banff World Media Festival

Thursday, 25 August, 2016
A Look Back: 10 Years of Banff World Media Festival

A Look Back: 10 Years of Banff World Media Festival

Ten years ago in June 2006, I was awarded a CTV Fellowship to attend the prestigious Banff World Television Festival. Since then I’ve attended to report on most of the yearly Banff World Media Festival (Banff’s new name). Based on my personal experiences, I recommend the annual Banff gathering be something someone working in media/entertainment industry should attend at least once in her/his life (and may be even yearly). Great way to pitch projects to concentrated groups of decision makers from around the world, to meet and make friends with industry peers, and learn from the many Master Classes you given by some of the best creatives in the industry.

Take this year as an example, knowing HBO Chairman and CEO Mr. Richard Plepler will attend the 2016 Banff, I did some research including watching these two videos to prepare. And I ended up learning lots from attending and meeting Richard in his Company of Distinction Keynote: HBO’s Richard Plepler Banff World Media Festival Banff. And yes, I felt totally honoured when Richard compared me to his mother after I asked him about his work experience at “RLP International quoting what I learned from his commencement speech to the Franklin & Marshall College Class of 2015!

Let me share just another highly insightful and fun to watch video from the 2016 Banff:  In Conversation with Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award Recipient Russell Peters. I love Russell Peters even more as I heard the etalk co-host Lainey Lui asked Russell, “You’ve been making this kind of money for the last few years and you are still hustling, 250 shows, 120 cities, 25 countries, you are still hustling with an immigrant work ethic!

(More info on Russell‘s new show “The Indian Detective“)

In the last 10 years, I’ve met and interviewed a lot of creatives and senior executives at Banff. The following are some samples of my video interviews.

*2010) Meeting someone I really admire like Ricky Gervais was epic and wonderful for me. I was able to capture his “Award for Comedy Speech” which I think is better/more fun than the official Banff version shot with more expensive video equipment. (watch and read my full 2010 report of Ricky here)

And asking Ricky a brief question on the 2010 Banff red carpet was something I still remember fondly today, six years later.

*2008) Two years before I met Ricky, Banff attendees had the pleasure to meet the highly successful producer Jon Plowman (photo) who came to Banff to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as former head of BBC comedy and producing/executive producing great shows like Absolutely Fabulous, The Office, Little Britain, and The Vicar of Dibley! I wrote a brief report in 2008 but didn’t shoot any video. I did walk up to meet Jon and personally thanked him for his great work!
*2011) Mike Farah, President of Production, Funny or Die
,
*2010) TiVo CEO Tom Rogers interview,
*2013) Watching “VICE co-founders Shane Smith & Suroosh Alvi at Banff 2013” was a lot of fun and then interviewing “Shane @ Banff ” was awesome given how much VICE Media has grown since 2013!

*2012) “Masterclass with Terence Winter creator of Boardwalk Empire at #banff2012” (more info on Boardwalk Empire)

*2012) And my video interview with “Terence Winter, Creator of Boardwalk Empire at banff 2012

*2011) Tom Perlmutter, NFB Chairperson,
*2010) Tony Lacavera, Globalive & WIND Mobile Chairman audio interview, (It was fun for me interviewing Tony, an University of Toronto alum, over the years. In March 2016, Shaw Communications Inc. closed its acquisition of Wind Mobile for $1.6 billion.)
*2008) David Hoselton (Producer of House) (I LOVE House so it was interesting for me to know that creator David Shore and producer David Hoselton were University of Toronto Law School buddies.)
*2012) Duncan Fulton, SVP Canadian Tire, talks about cutting edge advertising/e-commerce technologies at #banff2012 (Since then, Duncan has been promoted to President FGL Sports Ltd in March 2016.)
*2007) Jane Mote, Director of Life Style, UKTV,
*2007) Vicky Taylor, Editor, Interactivity, BBC Television,
*2007) Dale Herigstad, Chief Creative Officer, Schematic,
*2007) Greg Goodfried, Co-creator and Executive Producer, Lonelygirl15, (note: In 2012, AdAge reported that “Everyday Health Buys Lonelygirl15 Producer EQAL in Expansion to New Genres” quoting TechCruch which “pegged the price at $15 million plus a $5 million earn-out“. EQAL founders are Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried.)
*2007) Dawn Airey, Director of Global Content, ITV,
*2012) Paul Chard – The most interesting person at #banff2012 to me,

One of the most insightful people I’ve met at Banff
*2009) Gary Carter’s Storytelling in the Digital Age (2009) (Long list of videos, highly recommended even the 2009 content may seem a bit dated)

Attended and filmed,
*2012) “In Conversation with Chuck Lorre (Creator of Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory)“,
*2010) “William Shatner speaks with ‘The Big Bang Theory’ creator and showrunner Bill Prady“,
*2012) “Conflicts in Reality TV and psychological profiling – The Chicken or The Egg – Most fascinating and controversial session at 2012 Banff
*2010) “Ian Brennan, creator/writer Glee (19 Emmy nominations) @ 2010 Banff” (extensive video)
*2013) “Julia Louis-Dreyfus talks about Veep and other topics at Banff World Media Festival 2013

*2012) This was a lot of fun and insight for me, “Master class Q&A with Glen Mazzara – The Walking Dead at 2012 Banff World Media Festival

*2006) Finally, It was my honour to meet and listen to Oscar winning director & writer Paul Haggis at my absolute first Banff in 2006. I wish my “professionalism” hadn’t stopped me from asking for a photo! Oh well, something I have regretted ever since. Anyway, the story of how Paul broke into Television is something I will likely remember for the rest of my life! Enjoy!


*** More
2016 Banff World Media Festival stuff and one 2012 Master Class with Chuck Lorre (creator: Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory).

*2016) I think Girls is one of the most cutting edge and funny TV comedies in recent years. I had the pleasure this year to attend and listen to Jenni Konner talk in person. And I enjoyed the session very much.

Comedy Master Class with Casey Bloys and Jenni Konner (note: Casey Bloys is senior vice president, HBO Entertainment)

*2016) I didn’t know the name Jay Baruchel but after watching this, I discovered I’ve watched A LOT of Jay‘s stuff without knowing his name and I LOVE them all! Very insightful: “In Conversation with Canadian Award of Distinction Recipient Jay Baruchel

Further references:

*2016) Richard Plepler: Stick with the Optimists (background research for Banff 2016)

*2016) HBO CEO Richard Plepler: Full Discussion @The Paley Center for Media (background research for 2016)

*2016 Banff) “The Night Of” Master Class: A Closer Look at HBO’s Limited Series Model featuring Academy Award-winning writer Steven Zaillian. After watching the video, I realized one of my favourite films “Searching for Bobby Fischer” was written and directed by Steven and he talks about it at timecode 16:10.

*for 2016) Westworld: Teaser Trailer (HBO) (brand new to viewers at Banff, publicly released after 2016 Banff)

*2012) In conversation w Chuck Lorre (Creator: Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory) at #banff2012

P.S. On a personal note, I want to thank Scott Benzie, Lindsay Nahmiache, Robert Montgomery, and, for the last 10 years, many other team members for their kind help at Banff and arranging my press credentials, etc. I really enjoyed attending Banff and I’m happy to share what I learned with my readers/viewers.

It has taken me some time to create this post and I am still amazed how many great creatives and industry senior executives I’ve met and tried to learn from all these years. And there are still some that I haven’t listed! Like in 2009 when I met and interviewed Ron Moore who amazingly re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (BSG)!

Let me mention something most people might have missed. For a few years in a row, I noticed Tony Lacavera, Founder and Chairman of Globalive & former WIND Mobile Chairman, was sponsoring the Banff CRTC Breakfasts. (see my 2010 report) A side benefit was Tony got some “face time” to chat with CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein (photo of the two at CRTC Breakfast). Well, to me, that was money well spent in the long game of business! As you may know, this March 2016 WIND Mobile was sold to Shaw Communications Inc. for $1.6 billion.

If you ask me, I say the C$1.6 billion deal has to be one of the biggest deals that Banff World Media Festival has *indirectly* facilitated! Pretty cool!


TICO Clarifies NewLeaf Offers Ontario Flyers Limited Protection

Wednesday, 27 July, 2016

July 29, 2016 report: “Ontario law governing NewLeaf internet sales has “deficiency”, Statutory Registrar acknowledges
July 28, 2016 report: “NewLeaf Travel blocks reporter after TICO Clarifies report
July 23, 2016 report: “Chat with Air Passenger Rights Advocate Lukacs re: urgent NewLeaf injunction
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20160726 Bloomberg TV Canada - Jim Young, CEO NewLeaf, Screen capture

Jim Young, CEO NewLeaf, Bloomberg TV Canada (Screen capture)

Passengers on NewLeaf Travel Company (“Canada’s Ultra Low-Cost Travel Choice“) first flight (see CBC, Global News, CTV) seem excited but should NewLeaf passengers worry about its “financial woes” and how much/little are they protected when flying with NewLeaf?

Financial woes take centre stage

Financial Post reporter Kristine Owram wrote an insightful article, “NewLeaf Travel Co’s financial woes take centre stage as first flight takes off“. Let me highlight and expand on two points.

NewLeaf is not actually an airline but rather a reseller of seats. It has partnered with Flair Airlines, a B.C.­based charter service, to provide its aircraft and crews.

How many Canadians know that NewLeaf is actually NOT an airline?! We will explore more what this means later.

Last week, Lukacs [an air passenger rights advocate] took his challenge one step further and asked the court to shut down NewLeaf unless it can post a $3.74 million performance bond to compensate passengers in the event it folds, calling it a “shell company without significant assets.”

This reporter has interviewed Air Passenger Rights Advocate Dr. Lukacs extensively in this earlier article (with video interview) and won’t repeat the rationale Dr. Lukacs laid out clearly in why he requested the “$3.74 million performance bond to compensate passengers in the event it folds“. (Note: Dr. Lukacs currently has an ongoing Federal Court of Appeal re NewLeaf and CTA see directory Federal Court of Appeal – Court File Number A-242-16 for more public court files.)

“Kinda like Expedia … but with wings” ?

Bloomberg TV host asked Young asked in this TV interview (video clip),

So just explain that to viewers, you are not buying the airlines, you are not leasing the airlines, you are effectively acting as what? The intermediary between Flair and the consumer?

Young’s answer on TV was ad slogan worthy: “we are kinda like Expedia … but with wings”.

In terms of passengers’ protection, this is comparing booking Air Canada or WestJet on Expedia  to booking NewLeaf on NewLeaf’s own website which is two different matter completely.

You see, all Canadians that book their Air Canada or WestJet flights on Expedia, since these two airlines are full fledge airlines which strict licensing requirements refunding by the federal government, the passengers are much more protected.

When under oath and compelled by the Federal Court of Appeal, Young was less poetic and didn’t answer “Expedia … but with wings“. Young gave an essentially two words answer in his July 23 affidavit, NewLeaf is a “travel agent“.

2016-07-23--NewLeaf--affidavit--Donald_James_Young--PAGES_WITHOUT_CONFIDENTIAL_INFO

2016-07-23–NewLeaf–affidavit–Donald_James_Young–PAGES_WITHOUT_CONFIDENTIAL_INFO

As you can read in the above affidavit (a sworn statement of fact made under oath), Young was advised by NewLeaf CFO Brian Reddy that Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), the legislated regulatory body tasked to protect the traveling Canadians in Ontario, considers NewLeaf a “travel agent for the purpose of contributing to its compensation fund“. In short, NewLeaf is seen as a “travel agent” in the eyes of TICO.

List of questions/problems with NewLeaf’s TICO registration and other issues:

  1. What is NewLeaf’s TICO registration status? Let this reporter repeat something that is legally important, according to Young’s sworn affidavit filed with the the Federal Court of Appeal, “[…] Travel Industry Council of Ontario (“TICO) considers Newleaf to be a travel agent […]”And s. 4 (1) (a) of the Travel Industry Act, 2002 states that,Prohibition against acting as a travel agent or travel wholesaler unless registered
    4. (1) No person shall act or hold himself, herself or itself out as being available to act,

    (a) as a travel agent unless the person is registered as a travel agent under this Act

    NewLeaf so far does not have a “TICO registration” and is applying for one according to NewLeaf’s court filings with the Federal Court of Appeal.

    In an extensive phone interview on Monday (July 25) with Ms. Dorian Werda, Vice President of TICO, Operations,  confirmed for this reporter that NewLeaf still does NOT have a TICO registration and there is no fixed/guarantee date of when NewLeaf can obtain registration, possibly “in a couple of weeks” but there is no guarantee.

    Now, it is only fair to ask what prior permission and from whom at TICO or other government bodies or authorities did NewLeaf obtain an exemption to the s. 4 (1) (a) legal requirement for NewLeaf to operate as a Travel Agent in the Hamilton Airport? Quoting the Travel Industry Act, 2002, there is a “Prohibition against acting as a travel agent or travel wholesaler unless registered“.

    Does laws in Ontario still need to be followed? Or NewLeaf, because of its ultra-low-cost business model, is allowed to operate above the law without providing legislated legal protections to Canadians’ dealing with travel agencies in Ontario?

  2. How precisely TICO registration protects or fails to protect NewLeaf passengers?In the same extensive Monday interview with Ms. Werda from TICO, this reporter was told the “protection” applies in a very limited sense only to transactions occurred right at the physical Hamilton Airport NewLeaf check-in counters! Yes, those feet square metres of space! TICO registration is required only for the Hamilton Airport NewLeaf check-in counters!Lets use a specific example, 120 Hamilton passengers purchased their tickets online via NewLeaf website, how many of those 120 Hamilton, Ontario air passengers’ ticket purchases do you think are protected by TICO’s travel compensation funds?The right answer is not a single one of the 120 passengers. Because those 120 passengers bought their tickets online and TICO considers NewLeaf as a company domiciled outside of Ontario. A key point TICO clarifies for this reporter is that since NewLeaf’s ticketing, receipt issuing, call centre, etc all still reside in Manitoba, therefore NewLeaf’s domicile will still be Manitoba thus outside of the protection offered by Ontario’s compensation fund.

    What would be covered are the costs (and cost ONLY) paid by NewLeaf passengers at the physical location of the Hamilton Airport NewLeaf check-in counters. For example, checked or carry-on bag fees or a plane ticket actually purchased NOT online but at the airport check-in counters. Thats it. And again, the protected portion is just the cost only.

    According to Young’s July 23 affidavit again, this time paragraph #5 & #6. Only three provinces in Canada have enacted travel industry legislation – B.C., Ontario and Quebec. NewLeaf only flies in B.C. and Ontario. If TICO’s explanation is any guidance, this reporter has no reason to expect B.C.’s travel compensation funds would cover NewLeaf because it is a company domiciled outside of B.C.

    In fact, one can ask, and it is clear from NewLeaf CEO Young’s own  July 23 affidavit that there is NO travel industry legislation in Manitoba, the province NewLeaf is domiciled in! Thus it seems there are no travel industry legislated compensation funds available to NewLeaf flyers to cover “repatriation costs”.

    NewLeaf suggested in Young’s  July 23 affidavit that they rely on credit card issuers to hold the funds and that would “include holding all funds for any repatriation on any return flight booked by the passenger“. But it seems this view may not be well justified as Ultra Low-Cost and deeply discounted (compare to major airlines as NewLeaf advertised) one way return flight cost (the cost paid by the customers using credit card) will not likely be sufficient to buy a last minute Air Canada or WestJet plane ticket home.

    And Dr. Lukacs argued similarly in his July 22 reply (PDF),

    Credit cards can refund only the fare paid by passengers to NewLeaf. They do not cover repatriation costs. For example, a passenger who paid NewLeaf’s low fare of $99 would have to pay 5-10 times that amount for a last-minute one-way Air Canada or WestJet ticket in order to get home.

    20160725 //Here's what passengers on #Newleaf should expect to pay for bags// - Screen capture of photo by Kristine Owram

    20160725 //Here’s what passengers on #Newleaf should expect to pay for bags// – Screen capture of photo by Kristine Owram

    Launching from @flyyhm (Hamilton Airport YHM), @YWGairport and @ylwkelowna, @newleaftravel is Canada's first ULCC

    Launching from @flyyhm (Hamilton Airport YHM), @YWGairport and @ylwkelowna, @newleaftravel is Canada’s first ULCC (Screen capture from @flyyhm)

  3. The potential troubling implication of “customers paying for a seat and a seat belt”

    Young said in the Bloomberg TV interview, “The unbundling of products and services such that customers choose and only pay for the things they want. NewLeaf Travel Company with our partner Flair sell you a seat and a seat belt and let you choose everything after that.

    The potentially troubling implication is whether passengers are risking being stuck away from their home city or in a far away “sun destination” if NewLeaf fails as a business. It seems that it makes sense for NewLeaf to come up with a better way other than credit cards or the insufficient TICO registration protection funds (given NewLeaf is a company domiciled outside of Ontario)  to try to protect flying Canadians.

  4. Affordable but also safe and protected travelIn the Bloomberg TV video interview, Young shared the romantic story of meeting passengers who hadn’t flown for the last 15 years because they couldn’t afford to! Yes, giving Canadians across the country Ultra Low-Cost options to travel is great and commended.But when these Canadians who couldn’t afford to travel otherwise except on ultra-low-cost options, if something financially bad happen to NewLeaf as a company, wouldn’t they be facing a bigger nightmare as they will then be stranded away from home and try to rush to buy last minute expensive Air Canada or WestJet tickets to fly home?

Note 1: This reporter has tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to arrange an interview with NewLeaf CEO Jim Young in order to let him answer various concerns and clarify things directly. Instead, Mr. Young sent his representative Mr. Orvel L. Currie, a partner at NewLeaf’s law firm, to talk to me. Unfortunately, Mr. Currie did not keep his promise to be interviewed today (Wednesday 3:30pm).


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