The purpose of this message is to provide clarification on several points related to the Vacation Travel Assistance (VTA) provisions of the Isolated Posts Directive:

1. What airfare should departments use in calculating: a) the maximum entitlement for the 100% fully accountable VTA; or, b) the 80% non-accountable assistance payment option?

(a) Departments are required to use the return economy class airfare, identified as "Y" class fares, between the post and the point of departure. Excursion, advance booking or seat sale fares should not be used to calculate the maximum entitlement for the 100% fully accountable VTA, or the 80% non-accountable assistance.

(b) At some isolated posts, it may happen that more than one airline offers service from the post to the point of departure, with one "Y" class fare being lower than the other. If this is the case, the lower "Y" class fare is to be used.

This approach will ensure that employees will continue to be treated within the intent of the Directive (which is to assist them to travel from the isolated post, not to pay for a holiday), and, by the same token, departments will continue to act in a fiscally responsible manner.

There has been some suggestion that the 100% fully accountable VTA provisions of the Directive have changed in this regard. This is not the case. These provisions were never intended to be treated as a non-accountable advance, nor was there the intention that employees should profit from competition in the airline industry. The wording in the Directive has been changed to reinforce the original intent of the VTA, that is: 1) to put employees at isolated posts on an equal, not more advantageous, footing with their colleagues in non-isolated locations; and, 2) to do so at a cost that is fair to both employees and Canadian taxpayers.

2. Determination of the Point of Departure

For purposes of the Isolated Posts Directive, point of departure means "Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax, or St. John's, whichever of these places is the nearest to the headquarters of an employee by the most practical route and means of transportation."

For some isolated posts, there is clearly only one point of departure, e.g., Vancouver for Whitehorse or Edmonton for Yellowknife. However, for others, it may not be as clear, and departments are required to decide between two.

The following example is provided to assist you:

Direct, non-stop flights are available seven days a week from Iqaluit to Ottawa. Flights are also available from Iqaluit to Montreal; however the service is offered three days a week and is not direct – it requires a stop, en route, in Kuujjuaq. Given the difference in the frequency and nature of the service, it would be reasonable to consider Ottawa as the point of departure for Iqaluit.

When more than one department has employees at an isolated post and there is a decision to be made regarding the choice of a point of departure, we encourage you to consult each other to determine a common approach so that employees will be treated consistently.

The new directive is available on the NJC web site (http://www.njc-cnm.gc.ca/directives/bylaws2f_e.html) and the Treasury Board Secretariat website (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca).