Ottawa has announced two new programs to help Canada’s beleaguered airports recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Airlines Council of Canada says more work is needed, and that the aviation and travel industry also need to see a recovery plan.
The Airport Critical Infrastructure Program (ACIP) is a new program providing close to $490 million to financially assist Canada’s larger airports with investments in critical infrastructure-related to safety, security or connectivity. The Airport Relief Fund (ARF) is a new program providing almost $65 million in financial relief to targeted Canadian airports to help maintain operations.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on Tuesday also announced that Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) is receiving a funding top-up of $186 million over two years. The ACAP is an existing contribution funding program which provides financial assistance to Canada’s local and regional airports for safety-related infrastructure projects and equipment purchases.
“Canada’s airports are major contributors to our country’s economy, and play a key role in sustaining the social and economic well-being of our communities, and our local airport workers,” Alghabra said. “These programs will help ensure that, as Canada works towards recovery and travel restart post pandemic, our airports remain viable and continue to provide Canadians with safe, reliable and efficient travel options, while creating and maintaining good paying jobs in the airport sector.”
“It is good to see federal government commitments made in the Fall Economic Statement being fulfilled, with funds flowing to airports soon," said Canadian Airports Council President Daniel-Robert Gooch. "Unfortunately, the situation is worse than it was when these measures were announced five months ago, with our entire aviation network - from the largest to smallest commercial airports in Canada - compromised by the protracted suppression of passenger traffic to just about 10% of pre-pandemic levels."
“Today’s announcement provides further details on programs that were announced last year and provides support that is required as the sector continues to reel from the impact of the pandemic,” said Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada. “Further action will be required. Following the example of other countries such as the United Kingdom, and as vaccination rates increase rapidly in Canada, the most effective step the government must now take is to work with the sector to develop and launch a clear recovery plan for aviation and travel. Establishing the parameters for the safe restart of the sector, and clearly conveying a plan to the public, is essential if we are to continue to effectively support public health and Canada’s overall economic recovery in communities large and small across the country.
“Countries that properly plan will not only safely restart aviation and their overall economy, they will take jobs and investment from countries that do not,” McNaney said.
The National Airlines Council of Canada represents Canada’s largest national and international passenger air carriers: Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet.
The Airport Critical Infrastructure Program (ACIP), the Airport Relief Fund (ARF), and the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) funding top-up and program expansion were originally announced in the Fall Economic Statement in November 2020.
The Airport Critical Infrastructure Program (ACIP) will distribute $489.6 million in funding over five years to airports for eligible projects such as runway repairs/rehabilitation, airfield lighting enhancements, investments in terminal buildings, and transit stations to ensure connectivity to mass transit systems.
On April 15, 2021, the Government of Canada announced a contribution of up to $100 million towards the $600-million project to construct a new Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light rail underground station at the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport. Federal funding for this project comes from the Airport Critical Infrastructure Program (ACIP).
The Airport Relief Fund will provide $64.8 million in funding to airports whose 2019 revenues were less than $250 million. The amount of funding to each targeted eligible recipient will be calculated using a tiered formula-based approach, based on 2019 revenues.
In addition to the one-time funding top-up of $186 million, eligibility for the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) has been temporarily expanded to allow National Airport System airports with less than one million annual passengers in 2019 (Gander, Charlottetown, Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, Thunder Bay, London, and Prince George) to apply for funding under the Program in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.
For 2021-2022, funding has been awarded to 63 airports for 86 ACAP projects, including runway and taxiway repairs/rehabilitation, lighting enhancements, purchasing snow clearing equipment and firefighting vehicles and installing wildlife fencing.
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