Windsor West MP Brian Masse, NDP, on Tuesday introduced a private member’s bill that would give the Minister of Transport the power to remove airports from NAV Canada studies in order to reduce or eliminate air traffic control services.
NAV Canada (which owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system) announced in November 2020 the launch of a study on the removal of control towers at seven airports in Canada, including the Sault control tower. Ste. Marie Airport.
“This legislative change will allow the Minister of Transport to take practical and decisive action to remove… airports from the NAV Canada study,” Masse said in a press release.
“When NAV Canada announced this study, the Minister of Transport said he could not act to protect airports because of the law. With this legal change, he will be able to save not only Windsor Airport, but airports across the country, ”Masse wrote.
Terry Bos, Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation (SSMADC), President and CEO, described the bill as “certainly interesting” in an email to SooToday.
“It would have been a good tool for the government to have available when it started (although I’m not sure) what effect it would have had. It would certainly give the government an opportunity to potentially change course or postpone such a review until times are normal (post COVID), ”Bos wrote.
“As for MP (Sault) Sheehan, we discussed it and he is certainly in favor of keeping ATC (air traffic control) here and had conversations about it with Minister Marc Garneau prior to his departure. Transport, and I suspect also had similar discussions with Minister Omar Alghabra (who succeeded Garneau as Minister of Transport in January 2021).
The NAV Canada review is due to be completed next month and sent to Transport Canada, Bos told us.
The review of each of the seven airports will examine whether the air traffic at these airports justifies having a control tower rather than an advisory service for pilots.
Other airports under review by NAV Canada, other than Sault and Windsor, include St. John’s, Quebec, Regina, Saskatchewan, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Prince George , in British Columbia; and Whitehorse, Yukon.
The aviation industry, including Sault Airport, has been among the toughest as federal travel restrictions continue and public health officials discourage travel during the pandemic.
In February, for example, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport reported record passenger levels.
Passenger traffic fell by more than 89% in January compared to the previous year.
Also in January this year, the airport announced a 41% reduction in staff, as flights were cut due to the ongoing pandemic.
“A strong airport system is essential to supporting the recovery of COVID-19 for our travel and tourism sector, as well as for our regional and national trade-based economies,” Bos said in a press release issued on February 9.
“Canada’s airports and our airline partners want to play a leadership role in this recovery, but may not be able to do so effectively without government intervention.
“The airport will remain open regardless of NAV Canada’s decision. We made a very strong argument to keep the control tower. Sault College has major expansion plans that more than justify the need for a tower here. While we need to go through the process, we believe we have provided information that justifies maintaining the tower, ”Bos told SooToday in February.
“This (hoped for passage of the private member’s bill introduced on Tuesday) will allow us all to focus on what matters right now, rebuilding and helping our local economies recover from the pandemic rather than to spend our time defending ourselves against NAV Canada’s cutbacks and cost-cutting initiatives that will end up damaging a key piece of local infrastructure, said NDP MP Masse.