August 23, 2012
Airport Policy in Canada
Historically, Canadian airports began as municipal creations with federal oversight in safety, emergency landings and in the creation an airway spanning the country. The poor state of post-Depression airports and the intensive federal involvement in airports during the war years (1939-45) combined to create a natural shift in airports from municipal entities to federal operations. A transformative change in 1992 resulted in airport transfers from the federal government to self-financing, not-for-profit corporate entities making leasehold payments to the federal government.
The survey and construction of the Trans-Canada Airway represented one of the largest federal initiatives in Canadian history. The dramatic growth in the airline industry in Canada would not have taken place without it. The resulting benefit to the movement of persons and goods allowed great strides forward for the country.
This paper will assess whether the not-for-profit model of 1992 was accompanied by any similar grand design and whether it has in any way addressed the needs of the airlines, the travelling public, cargo and, ultimately, the Canadian economy.
The paper will examine airport policy in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, including underlying issues of traffic levels, landing fees, commercial airport operations and competition. It will question whether productivity, transparency, accountability and pricing have been achieved under the not-for-profit model. The paper concludes that the not-for-profit model has constrained rather than enhanced growth and represents little more than an intermediary step before privatization. With the wide benefit and limited criticism of privatized airports, the model best suited to the growth of airports and the economic growth of Canada is a privatized airport model.
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is a research fellow at the Frontier Centre. She is a lawyer and an established transportation consultant. She began her career with the Ontario Ministry of Justice and has since practised law in Manitoba and British Columbia. In 1997, Bennett received an appointment by the Governor in-Council to the newly formed Canadian Transportation Agency where she was involved in a broad range of transportation issues, including grain freight issues. Mary-Jane Bennett served as a Board Member with the Canadian Transportation Agency from 1998 to 2007. Bennett is author of Grain Freight Regulation in Canada and A New Policy is Required for Airport Transportation published by Frontier.