Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre says it’s the union, not him, that should apologize over a controversy involving the speech he gave to passengers of a Calgary-bound WestJet flight using the aircraft’s public address system.
The Opposition leader responded to calls for an apology from CUPE Alberta about the speech after the union said it was unfairly blamed for allowing it to take place.
“I think the union should apologize for trying to silence freedom of speech,” Poilievre told reporters in Vancouver on Thursday.
“The crew invited me to give a speech and they did that multiple times.”
On Sunday night, Poilievre used the PA system on a WestJet flight bound for Calgary from Quebec City, where the Conservative Party of Canada held their annual convention.
The airline said the plane was specially scheduled for delegates from that meeting, but it was still a commercial flight.
Because of that reason, the leader’s actions raised a number of questions, particularly from the union, which questioned in the appropriateness of Poilievre’s use of the PA system.
“It’s very disappointing that WestJet management let a politician use the public address system on a recent flight for his political statement,” CUPE Local 4070 president Alia Hussain said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
Poilievre said there was nothing wrong with his speech and “people love his message.”
“People on the plane were just delighted with my common sense remarks to axe the carbon tax, bring affordable homes and restore the common sense Canada that we know and love.”
One passenger who was on the flight reached out to CTV News and confirmed Poilevre’s version of events.
“Loved the speech,” said Thomas Harrison, who confirmed he was a Conservative delegate in an email. “Can’t believe CTV trying to create an issue out of it.
“By the way,” Harrison added, “He sat in row 22 at the back (of the plane), by the bathroom.”
In a statement Wednesday, WestJet said its current policy allows “infrequent” use of the PA system on “unique occasions” by individuals other than the flight crew.
The airline said it would review that policy.