Abbotsford International Airport. (Black Press Media files)

Abbotsford International Airport. (Black Press Media files)

Federal government unlocks $740 million in relief for airports

About $490 million of that windfall is bound for large airports to put toward critical infrastructure such as runway repairs and transit stations

The federal government is launching a basket of programs to bolster airports with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding first announced back in November, but the sector says more drastic steps are needed.

Ottawa has opened the door to $740 million in capital investments for airports over the next six years, laying out detailed criteria for the hard-hit facilities to apply for aid.

About $490 million of that windfall is bound for large airports to put toward critical infrastructure such as runway repairs and transit stations.

Most of the rest is en route to smaller airports, whose definition has been loosened temporarily to allow eight more sites to apply, from Prince George, B.C., to Gander, Nfld.

The government previously announced $206 million over two years to support regional air transportation, and $229 million in additional rent relief to 21 airport authorities. Rent was waived for one to three years for smaller airports and deferred by a year for Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

The aviation industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, with profits and passenger numbers plummeting amid travel restrictions and border shutdowns.

Airports get the bulk of their revenue from landing and terminal charges to carriers and parking and “airport improvement fees” for travellers, all of which have tanked since March 2020. High fixed costs such as tarmac maintenance, utilities and debt servicing make the situation tougher.

The number of passengers entering Canada in the week of April 12 to 18 dwindled to 33,800, a fraction of the more than 700,000 international travellers that touched down in the same period in 2019, according to figures from the Canada Border Services Agency.

Canadian Airports Council president Daniel-Robert Gooch said any federal support is welcome, but that even half a billion dollars for large airports falls short of the aid required.

“We know that the $500 million is probably going to be dwarfed by other projects,” he said in an interview, citing the constant need for infrastructure upgrades.

In a statement from the council, which represents more than 100 airports, Gooch stressed the need for more federal engagement and a restart plan.

“It is good to see federal government commitments made in the fall economic statement being fulfilled, with funds flowing to airports soon. Unfortunately, the situation is worse than it was when these measures were announced five months ago,” he said.

Last week, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said G7 countries are working toward a “common platform for recognizing the vaccinated status of travellers.”

“There’s discussion about what a vaccine certificate would look like, what are the thresholds, what are the testing regimes that need to stay in place,” he added Tuesday at a virtual press conference.

Alghabra declined to offer a timeline, saying it hinges on public-health conditions.

The minister also said he and Transport Department officials “meet regularly with airports, either as a council, as an association group or as individual airports, because their input is important to me.”

However, Gooch said airports have not been part of the discussion on vaccine certificationso far.

“That’s something we’ve wanted to talk with the government about for quite some time,” Gooch said.

“My organization has not yet had any direct discussions … about what the government’s looking at in terms of digital passports.”

Last month, the federal budget laid out $82.5 million for COVID-19 testing at airports when travel picks up.

“We are still awaiting details on what that means, but we think we’ll get those details fairly soon,” Gooch said.

Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based aviation consulting firm AirTrav Inc., said smaller airports have been hit particularly hard.

“This amount of funding will not be sufficient to get them where they need to be. Their balance sheets are in a massive state of disrepair,” he said.

Mike McNaney, chief executive of the National Airlines Council of Canada, cited the United Kingdom as a model of how to roll out and follow a restart roadmap.

“Establishing the parameters for the safe restart of the sector, and clearly conveying a plan to the public, is essential if we are to continue to effectively support public health and Canada’s overall economic recovery in communities large and small across the country,” he said in a statement.

Calgary Airport Authority spokesman Reid Fiest said in an email that “while capital funding is welcome and needed, the programs announced are not new and do not address the significant decline in revenue and passenger activity because of current COVID-19 travel restrictions and recommendations.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Business

Just Posted

Kitimat’s Water Quality Advisory, which has been in place for just over a week, has been lifted. (Black Press file photo)
Water Quality Advisory in Kitimat lifted

The district has been under a Water Quality Advisory since June 2

On June 16 at 6 p.m., the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a public presentation and discussion with Happipad, a social enterprise, to talk about solutions for affordable housing Kitimat. (Happipad photo)
Affordable housing to be focus of Kitimat Chamber of Commerce meeting

Figures indicate the average Kitimat household needs to make more than $92,000 a year

(District of Kitimat logo)
Hirsch Creek Bridge restricted to single lane traffic

The district is restricting the bridge traffic to legal highway loads only

Artist’s illustration of the proposed Kitimat LNG facility at Bish Cove near Kitimat. (Kitimat LNG illustration)
Haisla Nation surprised by Woodside pull out from Kitimat LNG project

Haisla Nation council states its main focus is now on developing the Haisla-led Cedar LNG project

(Northern Health logo)
Pop-up vaccine clinic tomorrow at the Save-on-Foods parking lot in Kitimat

The clinic will be this Friday, June 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

Most Read