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An Air Canada customer service agent pickets outside Trudeau airport in Montreal on June 14, 2011. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
An Air Canada customer service agent pickets outside Trudeau airport in Montreal on June 14, 2011. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Solidarity Forever?

Strike forces New Democrats to fly on non-unionized airline Add to ...

Air Canada has created a political and ideological dilemma for Jack Layton and his New Democrats. Given the airline's customer service workers walked off the job Tuesday morning, the NDP is now between a rock and a hard place.

With their convention scheduled to begin Friday in Vancouver, the entire 103-member NDP caucus and all their staff face the prospect of crossing a picket line to board an Air Canada flight or flying on a non-unionized airline.

What to do?

Well, the political party that's always insisted on flying on a unionized carrier, at least, during election campaigns, is taking a vacation from its beliefs, rebooking flights to British Columbia on WestJet, a non-unionized carrier (pensions? job security?).

"New Democrat staff and MPs will not cross picket lines to get to the convention," Kathleen Monk, Mr. Layton's director of communications, said Tuesday morning. "Flights are being booked on WestJet."

When asked about flying a carrier that's not unionized, Ms. Monk added that "with Air Canada on strike, the union [CAW]is encouraging us to secure other travel arrangements - be they by ground or flight."

Ms. Monk said it is "not likely" that any MP will take a bus, train or car to British Columbia for the weekend.

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