The vocal minority

By Kevin Psutka

There are a number of entities putting pressure on our sector of aviation and on COPA for a variety of reasons and it continues to amaze me how a relatively few people can do so much damage and consume so much of our effort as we ensure that our rights and freedoms continue. One such fight involves federal jurisdiction over Aerodromes, where high profile cases were initiated by a few not-in-my-back-yard opponents. For example, the two cases COPA took to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2009 were started by complaints from neighbours that escalated into constitutional challenges.

More recently, Burlington Airpark was challenged by the City on the federal jurisdictional right to improve the aerodrome. The City asserted, in lower and appeal court (and won), that local site alteration bylaws should apply.

As I write this, the aerodrome owner is considering his next moves as he continues his efforts to support our sector of aviation, but the issue was originated a few years ago by just two neighbours who managed to influence politicians to take up their cause.

These challenges continue and I am convinced more than ever that our best defence against these challenges is a strong offence, including a unified and strong national presence to ensure that our voice is heard.

With this in mind, it is enormously disheartening, to say the least, when some of the opposition to our goal of working for your freedom to fly comes from within. I am referring to the turmoil that occurred over the past year and culminated at our recent AGM in Peterborough, Ont.

I have remained in the background on the Board’s decision to remove a Director (see Chair’s message) because, as an employee and not a member of the Board, my role is to carry out the wishes of the Board, not to be making public comment about their actions. Of course, I am asked by the Board for my opinion on many Board matters but these are kept confidential, as are other matters of the Board, and in the end the decisions rest with the Board. However, now that the AGM has occurred, including passing an amendment to our bylaws concerning removal of Directors, I feel it is time to comment, not on the removal of the Director, because that matter remains with the Board, but on the need to remain united and concentrate on the external rather than internal challenges to our freedom to fly.

The past year consumed a great deal of time, both on your Board’s part and mine, dealing with demands made by a few members who did not agree with the Board’s decision. Leading up to the AGM, the effort increased as the Board prepared for an anticipated challenge at the AGM. While all of this was occurring, my attention and COPA staff’s attention was diverted from other important work.

As with all issues where a vocal minority is involved, the silent majority can suffer as resources are spent addressing the few. At some point, it is time to move on for the benefit of the majority. In the case of the vocal minority on the Director’s removal, I doubt they will ever be satisfied. But there was solid support from the large majority in attendance at the AGM for several items that required membership approval.

It is time to move on and I, as well as my staff, will concentrate on the external threats, for the benefit of all members. The developing battle with Transport Canada over the requirement to consult on developing aerodromes and initiatives by the Canadian Border Services Agency to duplicate the U.S. eAPIS program, to name just two, require considerable effort in order for all COPA members to benefit from our work. For a summary of the issues facing COPA, please see the presentation that I provided during a seminar at this year’s AGM.

For the silent majority who remain in support of COPA’s aims and objectives, thank you.