Whitehorse Daily Star

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AIRPORTS ACT UNDER SCRUTINY – An Air North Boeing 737 lands at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport in April 2015. Joe Sparling, the airline’s president, said the company would strongly oppose any move to implement an airport improvement fee in the Yukon. Inset: JOE SPARLING

Aviation industry sees ‘red flags’ in act

The Yukon Liberal government’s recently tabled Public Airports Act is drawing criticism

By Whitehorse Star on October 11, 2017

The Yukon Liberal government’s recently tabled Public Airports Act is drawing criticism from a major player in the territory’s aviation industry as well as the official Opposition.

Air North president Joe Sparling said Tuesday he was made aware of the legislation when it was being drawn up by the government.

Air North, however, was not “well-informed” about what exactly the Bill No. 6 was to contain, he said.

“We didn’t really until just recently actually have a chance to look at it,” Sparling told the Star.

Now that the airline is doing so, he said, aspects of the Public Airports Act are “raising some red flags with us and industry in general.”

One of those red flags is the act’s provision for the government to introduce charges like an airport improvement fee which could see passengers paying more to fly in the Yukon.

Most Canadian airports charge such a fee.

Passengers departing from the Vancouver International Airport, for example, are charged a $5 or $20 fee depending on terminal and flight destination.

Official Opposition house leader Scott Kent confronted the government in the legislature Tuesday about the clause in the act that would allow the government to enact such a fee.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn responded by saying he wanted to be “very clear” that the government has “no plans” to introduce an airport improvement fee.

However, Kent was not satisfied.

“It would be better if the legislation spelled that out,” he said. “It’s already very expensive to travel to and from the Yukon.

Added costs

“Any added costs to the price of airline tickets in the Yukon would only make it even more difficult for Yukoners to go on vacation, go south for school, or go visit friends in Vancouver.”

Sparling said Air North wholeheartedly objects to the introduction of a fee.

He said he would “hate to think” the Public Airports Act is being introduced to enable the government to do exactly that.

The federal government devolved all authority for Yukon public airports to the territorial government in 1996.

Currently, the Yukon is the only major airport authority in Canada without specific legislation governing its airport activities.

The territorial government currently uses powers granted in the devolution agreements to manage its public airports.

“The Public Airports Act will clarify the government’s role and enable it to better respond to tenant requests, manage traffic flow through aviation facilities and to improve service,” according to a Yukon government press release.

This is essentially what Sparling said he was told in a meeting with Allan Nixon, the assistant deputy minister for transportation.

He said at the time, this explanation of the government’s need for the legislation made sense.

However, he noted that “now that we look into it more, there’s more and more concerns coming to the surface.

“I think we’re seeing a bit of a potential for a cash grab here.”

In the legislature, Mostyn recited an extensive list of stakeholders who had been consulted over the last eight months in the legislation’s development.

“They have not expressed any concerns with me about the legislation as it currently stands,” he said.

However, both Kent and Sparling said Tuesday they don’t feel the government’s consultation process on the bill was adequate.

Kent questioned the brevity and the transparency of the process in the legislature.

“Thousands of Yukoners use and rely on our airports,” he noted.

“We don’t recall there being any publicly advertised consultation on this piece of legislation, in spite of it actually having the word ‘public’ in the title of the act.”

Mostyn said the act is modeled after legislation implemented in the Northwest Territories and other jurisdictions.

That in and of itself is cause for alarm, in Sparling’s view.

“I absolutely don’t want to follow the road the (Government of the Northwest Territories) took, because I think their path will prove to be a big mistake for them.”

The territory introduced an improvement fee for the Yellowknife Airport this year.

“It’s going to cut into their tourism industry, it’s going to hurt their economy, and we don’t want to be doing something just because they’re doing it,” Sparling said.

“In fact, we should be taking advantage of perhaps a competitive advantage and keeping ourselves lean and mean.”

Comments (20)

Up 0 Down 1

Kelly P. on Oct 17, 2017 at 8:24 pm

The Yukon Party is pulling hard on its old boys club on this one: Joe Sparling, Rick Neilson, Sampson Hartland...all complaining. Do you think Yukoners are that blind? A bunch of cowboys who don't want to play by the rules. It's nice to have someone with some backbone on this. Why should the taxpayers pay when an airport gets damaged by a plane?

Up 1 Down 0

Jim Cleaver on Oct 17, 2017 at 12:43 pm

People have become so numb to these airport fees that we think this should be the norm. We are so quick to blame the airlines, but not the overspending liberals. When they do an improvement to schools or government buildings do they charge you a fee? Of course not. But for some people they feel that their tax dollars shouldn't be going to the airports. Well I have nobody in school and don't feel I should pay school tax. Seems fair. And the fact they say that the tax won't happen, I'm sure we can all feel safe on that front. Politicians never lie....do they.

Up 15 Down 16

Olaf Wolfe on Oct 14, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Is this the same Joe that has been screaming to get Dawson paved? Even went so far as to hire the son of an ex deputy Prime Minister to lobby Ottawa for him.
If there was a passenger levee placed on all the fly in fly out workers there might be enough revenue raised to pave Dawson.
I think, if the monies are not squandered on general projects and if the revenue goes directly to airport improvements, then it is warranted.
Not so sure why Alkan and Air North are so worked up on this idea. Better runways mean less damage to aircraft components. Bigger aircraft means more revenue.
Something is not sitting right with their way of thinking.
I bet if this idea had been floated by the YP both the airlines would be applauding the idea.

Up 23 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Oct 14, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Errr, how about a compromise and only have a fee for non-Yukoners flying in and out of our airports?

In the big picture, if this government, or any other one, actually took steps to reduce the high levels of wasted tax dollars we wouldn't be talking about extra fees or sales taxes etc.

Up 20 Down 16

north_of_60 on Oct 13, 2017 at 10:34 pm

Why shouldn't airport users pay for airport improvements instead of the funds coming out of the money the Yukon gets from Canada, which should be spent to benefit ALL Yukoners. People who are wealthy enough to fly can afford it.

Up 12 Down 11

I dunno know? But I'm adding my 2 cents on Oct 13, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Never mind the 'politics' of it, I just wonder if this is not as bad a plan as some think it to be. Perhaps, just perhaps, this could be good for the Yukon. When (if?) Eagle, Casino Mines get going, the dream is that workers will move their families here and contribute as Yukoners via the usual expenditures for living here, mortgages, food, utilities, insurance, property & income taxes et al. I strongly believe there will still be a good number of fly-in/fly-out workers which will impact our airports (community & Whse International), maybe this is forward thinking about how to 'mitigate' those impacts and prepare for the in-flux and increased use. Tourists are used to paying 'extras' for their dream vacations and will budget for it if they know. Maybe having the 'option' in the rules is not that unreasonable, but who can predict the future? Maybe they are just sticking their hands in our pockets and robbing us blind, but 'really'?
As a Yukon 'lifer' I remember having to payout over a $1000.00 to get in/out of the Territory by air, just can't freak out over $5 - $20 extra on the fares we pay now.
I also have great respect for Mr. Sparling and Air North, a TRUE NORTH caring company, but even he only referred to 'tourists' impacts.
Finally, get on with it and PAVE THE DAWSON AIRPORT!

Up 7 Down 22

Read my Lips on Oct 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm

" Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn responded by saying he wanted to be “very clear” that the government has “no plans” to introduce an airport improvement fee." For not knowing anything about it Sparling certainly seems to have been very busy attending meetings. Was he asleep? Kent should apologize to all the Liberal voters that gave him his first and only job before he backstabbed them by crossing the floor. The authority for airports was handed over in 1996 by the Feds to YTG. What had the honourable member Kent and his party done on the matter if it is now deemed that this is critical legislation?

Up 35 Down 10

Yvr on Oct 12, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Having been subject to this tax over and over through Vancouver what I've seen is a whole lot of my money spent on ridiculous things, it appeared to me that most of the money was used used for paintings, canoes, statues etc. To me that's not what an improvement fee is for and that's the issue, we will have and extra tax on our airplane ticket for nothing that improves our travel experience. Love the liberals though always trying to get their hands in our pockets.

Up 17 Down 16

Moose on Oct 12, 2017 at 6:52 pm

@JC Vote buying programs like a safe, functioning airport? Damn those Liberals and their tricks.

@Larry So let me get this straight, you would prefer a general tax increase in order to keep our airport in decent shape as opposed to an airport improvement fee for travellers? Maybe you should think that through a bit more.

Up 17 Down 21

Politico on Oct 12, 2017 at 2:14 pm

So the airline wants us, who do not fly, to support them with cash hand outs. Sounds like corporate welfare. Have the users pay for it with fees.

Up 20 Down 11

Darrell Drugstore's smartest neighbour on Oct 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Joe needs to run for leader of the Pasloski Party
Someone with integrity and success outside of politics!
He'd get my vote.

Sanctimonious Stacey ? NOT A CHANCE

Up 33 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Oct 12, 2017 at 11:26 am

This situation reminds me of a logic parallel I have heard some Liberals use in the past: “If you are not going to use a gun- why do you want one?”

Up 40 Down 10

jack on Oct 11, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Many (rightfully) would argue that by introducing the provisions into the act for airport charges is exactly planning and laying the groundwork for a such an airport charge.

How can a government minister be so detached from reality?

Up 47 Down 12

Larry in Whitehorse on Oct 11, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Airport Improvement Fees are nothing more that a cash grab by our governments. Airports are government property and should be improved as they always have been - through our taxes, as are any other government buildings. In a regions, such as the Yukon, where most everybody has to fly to go anywhere, adding an AIF to our tickets is like adding salt to a wound - we, often, have to fly for various reasons and we already pay taxes - adding another level of taxation is not required. It just produces another level of expensive bureaucracy to maintain.

Up 40 Down 15

jc on Oct 11, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Liberals just doing what they do best - raise taxes so they can spend it on their vote buying programs.

Up 39 Down 20

Al Fedoriak on Oct 11, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Airport improvement fees in Yukon will without a doubt have a negative impact on the economy and tourism. Trudeauism all over again.

Up 21 Down 36

Steven on Oct 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

"Most Canadian airports charge such a fee." Yup. Stop your whining, everyone.

Up 37 Down 10

Stella on Oct 11, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Mostyn is in way over his head. Always fun to see him loose his temper though.

Up 33 Down 11

Right on... on Oct 11, 2017 at 4:05 pm

...you tell them Joe. It does not seem to matter - federally, provincially or territorially, or even municipally Liberals just love to get their greasy mitts into our pockets.

Of course they don't understand "lean and mean", except in the converse - we are lean and they are mean...

Up 25 Down 17

Math on Oct 11, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Air North has asked for the Dawson runway to be paved to fly in 15,000 US visitors a year from Holland America. This will cost maybe $200,000 extra to maintain. It does not seem unreasonable to hit up each of those US visitors $10 for the privilege, to cover most of that. I don't buy that will break those visitors and stop them coming. Maybe a fee could just be applied to international flights even.

Money has to come from somewhere, true conservatives should know that, or where would Air North have us take that amount from instead?

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