By Kevin Psutka
For many years, COPA has been advocating for an expansion of federal government funding for smaller airports because of the important role they play as economic generators for communities, provinces and the nation.
The only federal source has been the Airport Capital Assistance Program but qualifying for funding remains limited to airports with scheduled air service.
There is good news.
A new program called the Building Canada Plan has just been announced. Its goal is to cost share on infrastructure improvements and it includes regional and local airports.
Of particular interest to our sector’s needs, the $8.8 billion in funding over the next seven years applies not only to public infrastructure (including airports) owned by provinces, territorial and municipal governments and entities, but also ones owned by private industry.
As well, there is no mention of scheduled air service in the explanation of funding categories.
One of the categories is "projects that support economic growth and development…" and they give examples including "Regional and Local Airports."
As with all such funding programs, the devil is in the details and success will depend on how the need is sold to the various levels of decision-makers.
But a start point is to make local governments aware of the new program, educate them regarding how the local airport fits into the community and how it should be prioritized among other infrastructure needs when funding is sought.
Information about the Plan can be found at www.BuildingCanada.gc.ca.
Statements in the Plan regarding the importance of smaller airports coincide very well with statements in COPA’s brochure Your Community Airport – An Aviation Gateway (available on our website under the "Flying in Canada" section).
We encourage members to download both of these documents and distribute them at every opportunity to educate their neighbours and community leaders about the importance of their airport.
There will undoubtedly be many competing interests for funding from the new program, but with the right push airports can be moved up the priority list.
Each member has a role to play in raising the profile of your airport and this new funding program. Bring this initiative to the attention of your local COPA Flight, Flying Club and airport management. Combine efforts and get to work on improving your airport.
This is very much a matter of the rusty wheel getting the grease.