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

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

City of Surrey photo
Surrey starts Slow Streets pilot project

Speed limits have been reduced in six Surrey neighbourhood zones for one year to monitor impact on residents

Kaushal Parikh raised $2,840 for COVID-19 relief in India during his almost nine-hour run around the new North Delta Secondary School track on Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Submitted photo)
North Delta ultramarathoner raises over $2,800 for COVID relief in India

Kaushal Parikh ran the 90-km virtual Comrades Marathon around the NDSS track in under nine hours

Preliminary site plan for a proposed 50-space childcare facility at Scott Road and 90th Avenue in North Delta. (Bunt & Associates image)
50-space childcare facility proposed for North Delta

Daycare proposed at Scott Road and 90th Avenue now headed to public hearing

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read