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Leading Edge: Who pays?

In the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Wings magazine, John McKenna, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) wrote a guest column called, “Olympic Security Yes; But not to the detriment of the B.C. air transport industry.”


May 13, 2010
By Stacy Bradshaw


Topics

In the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Wings magazine, John McKenna, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) wrote a guest column called, “Olympic Security Yes; But not to the detriment of the B.C. air transport industry.”

In that column, McKenna told Canadian aviation and the Canadian government that ATAC members whose businesses were disrupted because of Olympic security measures would require compensation for their financial losses.

Flight schools, air shuttle services, sightseeing operators, and carriers flying people and cargo to various spots in the province would all be adversely impacted by the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Now the tally is in, and according to ATAC, “a dozen impacted stakeholders have concluded that the security measures had a major negative financial impact upon air operators during the period of restrictions. In some instances operators saw a drop in revenue as much as 80 per cent from the same period in previous years.”

The dollar value lost by those members primarily serving the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island is estimated at more than $7 million.

ATAC has intensified its lobbying to the federal government for compensation ever since security measures were formally announced. According to the association, ATAC has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper twice since November 2009 asking that the air operators be compensated. The latest letter, dated Jan. 19, 2010, had not, as of April 1, 2010, been acknowledged by the Office of the Prime Minister.

In his Wings column, McKenna had expressed his hope that the government would see fit to make reparations to those affected on its own and “not as a result of a court action.”

Following a meeting held in Vancouver in March 2010, ATAC and the air operators remain determined to seek compensation from the federal government by any means, including litigation.

Says McKenna, “These B.C. air operators are only asking that the government cover the operating losses resulting from the strict limitations imposed on their operations by Olympic security measures. These were Transport Canada imposed restrictions. We are not questioning the need for Olympic security but why should these small business operators bear additional and unreasonable costs while seeing their commercial activities restricted by as much as 80 per cent because of measures imposed by the government. We are only asking that the government accept its responsibilities.”

This should be a matter of public policy, not litigation. The government’s failure to respond to Canada’s leading aviation association demonstrates a lack of understanding of aviation and a lack of vision regarding its future. Should it come down to it, forcing a legitimate and valued association to take court action on this matter is a waste of time, money, energy, and most importantly, good will.

It seems that government really isn’t willing to accept its responsibilities. Since 9/11, the downloading of aviation-related security costs has continued on an ongoing basis.

In early April 2010, Transport Canada eliminated funding to our eight busiest airports to offset the cost for police to patrol the terminals. The government will save $15.6 million a year. (Federal regulations require armed police presence at terminals, and the airports are now responsible for the costs.)

The Canadian Airports Council says that passengers will have to make up for the funding shortfall.

Is this really acceptable? Airport terminals are open to the public and, as such, individuals who have business to do there should be able to count on security – the same security afforded to all citizens, wherever they might find themselves in Canada.

It seems that every time security measures are undertaken, the aviation community is told to bear the brunt.

Only when government and its departments are able to see the fundamental economic and social value of all forms of aviation in this country can we begin to expect better treatment.

The task then falls to us as members of the community to take our message forward as often and as loudly as possible, to explain, show proof, expound and when necessary, sue. Canadian aviation needs much more respect and consideration from those who are making the rules, especially in the realm of security.