The federal government is trying to make sure service at the country's biggest airline is not disrupted by a strike or a lockout involving its pilots.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said in a statement Tuesday she is offering Air Canada and its pilots a new mediator and a six-month process to help them settle their contract negotiations.
A pilots' strike or lockout by the company could ground the airline as early as Friday.
The collective agreement for the airline's 3,000 pilots expired on March 31, 2011.
The federal government has already provided a conciliator to work with the sides for more than two months, Raitt said in her statement.
"We believe that a work stoppage at Air Canada is contrary to the best interest of hard-working Canadians, Canadian businesses and the already fragile economy," she said.
"I will continue to do everything within my power to encourage an agreement between the parties, one that protects the interests of the pilots, Air Canada and the travelling public."
It was not clear from the statement whether that might include possible back-to-work legislation, such as the kind the government introduced last summer for striking Canada Post workers. However the language Raitt used Tuesday is similar to remarks about the fragile economy she made during last year's labour dispute.
In September, when Air Canada's 6,800 flight attendants were poised to strike, the government again threatened back-to-work legislation. An arbitrator subsequently ended up imposing a deal the workers had previously rejected.
Air Canada has faced several periods of disruption or near disruption over the past six months, including a three-day strike in June by customer service agents and the just-averted walkout by flight attendants.
Air Canada has said it is confident it can avoid a damaging labour disruption and that talks will continue.
The pilots union has also said it does not want a strike.