With the failure of the federal government's National Airports Policy to protect regional and smaller airports, this provincial initiative is a welcome sign that small airports are an important part of the national air transportation system. COPA has been active in efforts to make all levels of government aware of the plight of smaller airports. In Ontario, for example, COPA is involved in a task force to help the Minister of Transportation reintroduced it Municipal Airports Program that was introduced many years ago when it was felt that the federal government had abandoned smaller airports, which is exactly the situation now with the downloading that has occurred from the federal government. COPA members are encouraged to bring the Saskatchewan initiative to the attention of their MPPs to bring similar programs into place in their province.
The provincial government will invest $500,000 in a new transportation program to improve infrastructure at community regional airports, enable economic development and make life better for Saskatchewan families.
Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation Minister Buckley Belanger announced that under the new Community Airport Partnership program, eligible airports can apply for provincial funding for infrastructure projects supporting economic development, general access to surrounding communities, air ambulances, commercial operations and aviation safety.
"This program is another component of our new and innovative strategy called Transportation for Economic Advantage, which was announced in March," Belanger said. "The goal of this program is to provide eligible airports with long-term financial assistance in key areas. The province recognizes regional airports play an important role in supporting the social fabric and economy of Saskatchewan."
From community regional airports to larger facilities, the aviation sector is important to Saskatchewan. It links businesses and the tourism industry quickly with provincial, national and international markets and clients, which helps grow and sustain Saskatchewan's already robust economy.
Airports also serve important social roles, such as being a base of operations for policing and air ambulance.
Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation will fund half of the cost for approved projects with a maximum contribution of $200,000. The department has earmarked $500,000 for the program during the 2007-08 fiscal year.
"We're pleased with this announcement and to have been involved in developing this program," Saskatchewan Aviation Council President Janet Keim said. "This is the kind of funding our members have wanted and I think a lot of eligible airports will benefit from this new program."
The new Community Airport Partnership program is under the Regional Short line Railways and Airports pillar of the Transportation for Economic Advantage, the province's long-term transportation strategy. This strategy is a 10-year, $5-billion commitment to fundamentally realign the province's transportation network to meet the current and future demands of Saskatchewan's thriving and robust economy.
This new program for community regional airports was developed in consultation with the Saskatchewan Aviation Council, along with the authorities at the Regina and Saskatoon international airports.
More information about the Community Airport Partnership program and Transportation for Economic Advantage is available online at www.highways.gov.sk.ca.