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Leading Edge: An infrastructure inadequacy

In mid-August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment and boundaries of Canada’s newest national park in the Northwest Territories.

September 10, 2012  By Stacy Bradshaw

In mid-August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment and boundaries of Canada’s newest national park in the Northwest Territories. Located near the pristine shores of the South Nahanni River, one of the planet’s great wilderness rivers, the park ensures the provision of lasting economic, cultural, and social benefits on which Aboriginal and northern communities can build even greater growth and prosperity.

With the addition of Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, the Government of Canada now manages 44 national parks, with a total area almost half the size of Alberta. It also operates 167 national historic sites and four national marine conservation areas.

Canada’s national parks are intrinsic to the growth of the Canadian economy, generating millions of dollars in tourism revenue each year. National historic sites are equally essential in highlighting the profound accomplishments of great Canadians and contributing a sense of time, place and context in our development as a nation.

From an aviation perspective, Canada’s historical footprint is also extensive. The nation’s aviation and aerospace achievements both here and on a global scale are significant, and are hallmarked in the aviation museums that dot the landscape from coast to coast. But do we do enough to highlight aviation achievements in this country? Shouldn’t there be more recognition from the various levels of government about its role in the development of our economy, and our country?


Canada has one of the safest regulatory environments in the world but more attention needs to be paid to infrastructure development for future aviation-related initiatives. Such commitment has been of critical importance south of the border for years, and now an impressive array of municipal and secondary airports are serving American cities, heightening business aviation’s profile – and hence increasing economic potential.

Infrastructure challenges and a stronger commitment to aviation-related projects were key issues discussed at the second annual Wings roundtable during this year’s Canadian Business Aviation Association meeting in Toronto. Our seven superb participants were adamant a stronger commitment from various levels of government is needed nationwide. (For more go to “Establishing a winning formula,” pg. 26.)

The impending closures of municipal airports such as Toronto Buttonville and Edmonton City Centre in favour of condos and shopping areas are a prime example of how aviation assets are taken for granted. Such myopic decision-making limits the growth of business aviation and curtails economic stimulation. As a result, corporations depending on the airports, flight schools and several large corporations have been forced to scramble for alternatives.

Although the CBAA lobbied extensively to keep both airports open – as did local MPs – it was to no avail. “If you take a look at the Buttonville and Edmonton situations we were very proactive to disclose the business aviation footprint and the multiplier effect and the economic impact,” said CBAA president/CEO Sam Barone.

“In Edmonton and Buttonville the key drivers were the real estate value forces at play that offset any argument of the economic impact from the aviation side . . . in the end, the onus is on organizations like ourselves to show the economic value. ”

A potential solution panelists suggested is to designate secondary airports as protected areas, much as it does with its national parks, and ease restrictions for future growth. “I’m not an advocate of government intervention or protectionism but in the case of airports it’s something that I think needs to be protected just like a park,” Bill McGoey, president of Edmonton’s Morningstar Group of companies told Wings. “At the government level, we have to recognize that airports are as essential as roads. If you don’t protect them, you hurt the industry.”

Finding creative solutions to protect important aviation assets will be a constant challenge for the CBAA and other Canadian aviation associations going forward. Banding together to advocate for infrastructure change and borrowing from the model of Canada’s national parks is a great start in paving the way for more economic growth and prosperity.

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