On behalf of the Honourable John Baird, Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Mr. Myron Thompson, Member of Parliament for Wild Rose, Mr. Rob Merrifield, Member of Parliament for Yellowhead and Mr. Brian Jean, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, announced in two separate press releases on March 14, 2008, that a decision has been made in regards to the Banff and Jasper airstrips.
The Government has concluded that decommissioning the airstrips would increase pilot risk and create legal uncertainties regarding the status of the airstrips. Accordingly, the airstrips will be re-listed in the National Park Aircraft Access Regulations.
Regulatory changes will restrict access at the Banff airstrip to emergency and diversionary landings only. No recreational landings will be permitted.
The Jasper airstrip will be maintained for emergency and diversionary landings as well as recreational use. Commercial use of the airstrip will continue to be prohibited.
"Unpredictable weather in the mountains, and the possibility of an urgent emergency landing in this difficult terrain warrants the re-commissioning of the Jasper Airstrip," said Merrifield.
In regards to Banff Thompson said, "The possibility of an urgent emergency landing in this narrow valley warrants the re-listing of the Banff airstrip."
Both MPs said this decision removes the legal ambiguities surrounding the airstrips and improves pilot safety in Banff and Jasper National Parks.
An independent Air Safety Risk Assessment commissioned by Parks Canada found that the proposed Banff and Jasper airstrips decommissioning and reclamation project will have a [negative] impact on aviation safety.
"The Government of Canada is not prepared to accept this level of risk," said Mr. Jean. "We are also taking the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of local residents and Canadians."
The Government of Canada will initiate the appropriate regulatory, environmental assessment and other processes to re-list the airstrip. This action will allow Parks Canada to maintain the facilities appropriately and in compliance with relevant Transport Canada regulations to improve pilot safety.