Photo by Whitehorse Star
Yukon Senator Pat Duncan has questioned Transport Canada officials about Nav Canada’s potential curtailment or withdrawal of air traffic control services at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.
She posed her queries during a Standing Senate Committee on National Finance meeting last Thursday.
“Transport Canada is asking for nearly $116 million to provide essential air services to remote communities,” she said in committee.
“And we have recently learned in the Yukon, that Nav Canada is giving consideration to potentially closing down control towers at seven regional airports, including the international airport at Whitehorse, Yukon.
“Are any of the funds requested by Transport Canada being put towards ensuring that these control towers stay operational to maintain safety in Canadian airspace, and if not, what does Transport Canada propose to do to keep the regional airport towers operational?” the former Yukon premier asked.
In his response Lawrence Hanson, the assistant deputy minister, policy, told the committee that of the $116 million pledged for essential air services in remote areas, no funds will be given to Nav Canada to help them maintain continued control tower operations at the Whitehorse airport or elsewhere.
In any absence of controllers from the tower, flight services staff would provide such 24-hour services as weather and runaway conditions, but not specific guidance to pilots.
Last July, the committee, as part of a comprehensive study of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic recommended that the government work with the three territorial governments to ensure that northern airlines have sufficient financial support and access to gateway routes.
Duncan has consistently pressed government officials and Transport Minister Marc Garneau to consider the essential nature of air services in the North.
Specifically in Yukon, the independent senator referenced the gateway route issues and again the need to co-operate rather than compete in providing services to all Canadians.
The Senate committee is studying the expenditures set out in the main estimates and the supplementary rstimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.
The main estimates 2020-21 contain a total of $304.6 billion in spending, a 1.6-per-cent increase since last year.
COVID-19-related emergency expenses are not included.
The supplementary estimates (B) 2020-21, contain an additional $79.2 billion of expenses. Approximately $72 billion of these are related to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transport Canada is asking for $115,782,133 to provide essential air services to remote communities.
These expenses are not related to pandemic measures.
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