OTTAWA, Canada – The Canadian Airports Council today welcomed the announcement by Transport Minister Marc Garneau of $27.6 million in funding for 13 regional airports under the Airports Capital Assistance Program. The trade association for airports, however, urges the federal government to act on recommendations to improve capital fund options for small airports going forward.
“The Airports Capital Assistance Program has provided invaluable safety and security related support for Canada’s small commercial airports since airports were transferred to local management, and it is great to see the Government of Canada’s continued support of this program,” said CAC President Daniel-Robert Gooch. “For airports with fewer than 600,000 passengers a year, the government has always recognised the challenges associated with self-funding both airport operations and infrastructure needs. But we have airports and projects that should be eligible today and aren’t because of a quirk in federal policy.”
The CAC has joined with other regional airports in the Partners for Regional Aviation Infrastructure to jointly promote reforms to ACAP, including:
• Formation of a new, separate fund for small NAS airports that would be eligible for ACAP without a ban on funds for airports on federal land (see below).
• Review and revision of project and equipment eligibility criteria for more consistent decision making
• Funds for mandated safety upgrades, such as anticipated regulatory requirement for some airports to build Runway End Safety Areas
• Improved communication and transparency
• Increased funding for the program, which at $38 million a year hasn’t seen in an increase in more than 10 years
A recent review of transport policy by former Cabinet Member David Emerson recommends the government increase capital funding for small airports, including additional funds for ACAP so that it can also fund the lengthening and surfacing of runways in remote and northern airports.
Six Small Airports Need Not Apply
Canada’s airports have lobbied for six years to eliminate a ban on National Airports System airports on federal land participating in federal infrastructure programs – including ACAP, with six airports’ infrastructure deficit accumulating as a result. After a CAC appearance in the spring, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance agreed – urging the government to “ensure that small National Airports System airports are not unfairly excluded from eligibility for infrastructure funds.”
“Our airports have come to a critical point where infrastructure support is not only a matter of fairness, but rather a necessity,” says CAC Small Airports Caucus Chair Doug Newson, whose Charlottetown Airport is one of the six affected airports. “Whether it be critical runway repairs or adequate space for passengers to line up for security, the infrastructure deficit is growing and there are significant long-term sustainability challenges”.
NAS airports operate on a not-for-profit basis, but lease their land from the federal government under long term leases with assets reverting to the federal government after 60 years. Six NAS airports in Charlottetown, Fredericton, Gander, London, Prince George and Saint John have fewer passengers than the ACAP threshold and fall into this category – meaning they must pay rent to the federal government and are ineligible for ACAP and several other federal infrastructure programs.