January 4, 2022 By Nicholas Richard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, L’Éveil
Aéroports de Montréal’s administrative body has announced a dramatic price increase for French language flight schools based in Mirabel.
This decision threatens the very survival of these schools and calls into question the true intentions of our aviation sector leaders. For Mirabel’s Bloc Québecois MP, Jean-Denis Garon, this decision is unacceptable and must be reviewed without delay.
A large proportion of francophone pilots in Quebec and Canada are trained in Mirabel. However, even though Mirabel-based schools play a significant part in pilot training, Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) will now be charging them $65 per landing. Since landing is one of the most frequently practiced manoeuvers in pilot training programs, the annual fees paid by these various schools to ADM is expected to jump from $540 to $38,000.
“ADM does not seem to care much about Mirabel. Their attention is constantly focused on Dorval, while Mirabel remains an afterthought. But with this decision, we just went from an afterthought to downright neglected. This is worse than what we’re used to,” complained Garon. The MP adds that the aviation sector has already suffered a lot during the pandemic, and this news adds insult to injury.
Potential school closures would not only prove catastrophic for the region, but would also close many doors for the next generation of francophone pilots. The Bloc MP explains that Mirabel schools have done colossal work with very few resources or acknowledgement from ADM. “We have flight schools that do amazing work and are renowned for it. They even attract students from abroad who come here to learn to fly in French. We’re talking about people who come here, settle in our community, spend their money, work and fly here.”
A Political Issue
Faced with a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, ADM is looking for solutions to right the ship and French language schools have been chosen to foot the bill. For Garon, this is a serious political problem: “The Montreal Mirabel Airport has been mired in politics since day one. This issue has affected our economy, it has affected people’s lives, their families – the very evolution of our financial ecosystem.”
ADM CEO Philippe Rainville’s explanation for his organization’s decision has left the Mirabel MP unimpressed, to say the least. On one hand, Rainville claims that ADM is charging market prices. But Garon, an economist by trade, points out that the ADM is a crown corporation and that it should be tied to the market. Furthermore, the MP wonders why Mirabel-based, French language companies are treated like this while flight schools in Vancouver are only charged 20% of the market price, in recognition of their contribution to the economy, society and the community.
“ADM is a crown corporation and, given the Mirabel Airport’s history, Mr. Rainville should understand that this is an extremely political issue which has an impact on the citizens’ daily lives. I do not intend to let go of this.”
A Favourable Environment
For Garon, the situation is made all the more absurd by the fact that aviation is already well established in Mirabel. The government is proud to talk about big players like Airbus, Bombardier, and Bell Helicopter, but seem to be willing to let flight schools die. For him, this approach makes absolutely no sense.
“I would like Mr. Rainville to take a step back, to think about his decision and recognize that even if he’s not thrilled about having to manage the Mirabel Airport, he should be aware of his decisions’ consequences,” declared Garon. He also hopes ministers will step up and put pressure on ADM to do the right thing, lest the people of Mirabel once again get the short hand of the stick.