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Canada’s airports are ready to work with the new minister of transport, Omar Alghabra, to ensure that the aviation sector is positioned to make a positive contribution to Canada’s economic recovery when people are ready to travel again.
“We welcome Mr. Alghabra to this challenging portfolio and hope to start working with him immediately,” said Canadian Airports Council president, Daniel-Robert Gooch “Unfortunately, we are in a crisis situation, and there is no time to waste.
“There are two pieces the minister must act on urgently,” he explained. “First is the implementation and possible enhancement of the financial relief and regional access programs already announced by the government. Second is the need to expand the pilot testing programs at airports with the hope that they can be tied to reduced quarantine requirements, once safety concerns have been met.”
Thanks to government interventions in the early weeks of the pandemic, airports were able to partially offset the higher costs of operations and enhanced cleaning required using the Canada Employment Wage Subsidy and rent relief provided to 22 of the larger airports.
But the situation deteriorated over time. As the crisis deepened, the government announced a number of additional measures in support of airports and their communities, including funding regional routes, and the expansion of financial supports for small airports, rent relief and new infrastructure funding.
However, these initiatives have yet to be rolled out, and given the impact of the second wave of infections, may not be sufficient. To address these gaps and ensure that all airports have the support they need, the Canadian Airports Council has called on the government to provide interest-free loan or direct operational support when other programs do not apply.
Since the onset of the pandemic, air travel in Canada has declined as much as 90 per cent, with many regional communities losing service entirely. Now that many parts of the country are facing escalating cases of COVID-19, airports are dealing with long-term financial challenges that could affect the quality of service they can provide long after the virus crisis has ended.
There is a lot at stake that goes beyond the air sector itself. A strong airport and air carrier network provides life-saving community services, including firefighting, emergency evacuations, Medevac and more. It is also critical to our economy and trade. A competitive air sector is essential to travel and tourism – a $104 billion dollar industry that supports over 1.8 million Canadian jobs.
“We are very grateful that the government has introduced additional sector-specific support for airports,” said Mr. Gooch “Unfortunately, we have some serious concerns about the level and timing of the programs, particularly as other countries have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into support for their aviation sectors. We are looking forward to addressing these concerns with the new minister at the earliest opportunity so we can be certain that the aviation sector is ready to support Canada’s economic recovery.”