Dr. Tretheway started this presentation on aviation with some high level concepts for us to ponder on. Aviation is a nation builder and in Canada it certainly connects our nation and is critical for remote industries like diamond production in the Arctic. This industry was deregulated years ago, except for safety of course. If it hadn’t been deregulated a ticket from Edmonton to Toronto would have cost $5,600 today. Thank goodness for competition! Air service also leads to increased economic activity in a region, provided there is a reason to go there in the first place. West Jet has certainly transformed the economy of places like Comox BC. Dr. Tretheway also brought to our attention the age of the regional airplanes and the fact that there are not really any replacements especially planes that will land on gravel runways like those we have in our Territories. Now that is scary as the North is served by those regional planes.
Next up was Elvin Meyer who talked about aviation issues from a regional perspective. I kind of understood the importance of this mode of transportation but I totally did not understand that the federal government handed over airport responsibilities to municipalities. It sounds like now they view Aviation as a cash cow and do not invest the necessary funds that are required to maintain this very important aspect of our region. I found it fascinating that the biggest competitor for our airport is the car. A significant number of people drive south to get on a plane. For instance when West Jet first went to Ft St John they saw an increase in airport traffic by 45% and there was very little impact on Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie airport, which just means they were going even further south for that plane ride.
Brian Grant took over with a bit of history on the Grande Prairie Airport. Interesting that the choice they faced in 1997 was to take over ownership or close the airport. Now over 400,000 passengers per year use that airport. The vision for the Grande Prairie airport is exciting, by expanding the runway we could get flights direct to the Carribean, Mexico, the Atlantic provinces and even Hawaii. Wow I like how these guys think. The economic benefits or impacts that a local airport has on the local economy seem to be fairly significant and I am glad we seem to have some visionary people at the helm of our airport.
This is the 12th in a series of posts by Janet highlighting the speakers from the 2014 Growing the North Conference.