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Airport not expected to recover from COVID-19 until 2024, council learns

Staffing levels reduced 45 per cent
20200301-Sault Ste. Marie Airport, winter, stock-DT-05
Sault Ste. Marie Airport terminal file photo. Darren Taylor/SooToday

The COVID-19 pandemic has so far cost Sault Ste. Marie Airport more than $3.3 million, Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker says.

"It has dropped from 214,000 passengers last year to less than 65,000 this year," said Shoemaker, indicating the statistics were provided to him by airport officials.

"Recovery is not expected to hit the levels they were at in 2019 until 2024. They're looking at four more years of decreased revenue."

"As a result of the cutbacks from their loss of revenue, they have reduced their staffing levels 45 per cent or 8.5 full-time positions."

"It is a resource we need in order to be able to connect to the world outside, not just our municipal borders but also outside our national borders."

"Obviously, we would agree that our airport needs help," Shoemaker said.

The following resolution requesting federal and provincial assistance for Sault Ste. Marie Airport was passed unanimously by City Council on Monday night:

Assistance for regional community airports

Mover: Councillor M. Shoemaker

Seconder: Councillor C. Gardi

Whereas regional community airports are of strategic national importance and play an essential role in Canada’s air transportation sector, providing vital services and connecting remote communities with the rest of the country and the world; and

Whereas regional community airports like the Sault Ste. Marie Airport are part of a larger multi-modal transportation system, maintaining trade and the flow of goods and providing life-saving access to emergency transport through medivac services; and

Whereas regional community airports provide a public benefit that extends far beyond the communities in which they are located and are critical to the overall social and economic health and well-being of local communities; and

Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the aviation industry, resulting in dramatic reductions in revenue for regional airport operations; now

Therefore be it resolved that the City of Sault Ste. Marie requests that the federal and provincial governments provide regional community airports with financial assistance needed to ensure their continued operation until domestic, trans-border and international travel resumes and the industry recovers;

Further that a copy of this resolution be sent to:

  • the Honourable Marc Garneau, minister of transport;
  • the Honourable Bill Morneau, minister of finance; [Bill Morneau has since resigned]
  • the Honourable Melanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages;
  • Terry Sheehan, MP for Sault Ste. Marie
  • Ross Romano, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie
  • the Honourable Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade;
  • the Honourable Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s minister of transportation;
  • the Honourable Rod Phillips, Ontario’s minister of finance
  • the Honourable Steve Clark, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing;
  • the Honourable Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of energy, mines, northern development and Indigenous affairs
  • the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce;
  • the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities;
  • Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association
  • Rural OntarioMunicipal Association
  • Association of Municipalities of Ontario
  • Canadian Airports Council
  • Airport Management Council of Ontario

David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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