As the COVID-19 vaccine starts to roll out this month, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel and we now have to turn our attention to the economic recovery for our province.
Health is, and should be, our top priority. New Brunswick’s aggressive approach to limiting travel, including the 14-day quarantine period requirement for visitors coming to the province, helped keep us safe – but it is important to recognize that this came at a high cost and has critically impacted air travel and airports in this province. We need to consider short-term options to help strengthen our provincial economy, and boost confidence in air travel while ensuring continued public health.
Specifically, there are two key things that must happen to get our region back to business and move toward safe recovery:
- We need our air carriers to survive and be financially healthy. Federal aid will be key to achieving this, as it has been for just about every country around the world. Simply put, other nations are supporting their air carriers financially, and Canada will be at a competitive disadvantage if we do not do the same. Without convenient, affordable flights, our country’s airports cannot be successful.
- We need to find a way to get people moving again – safely. As the science related to COVID-19 has continued to evolve, we now have more tools available to do this safely. Testing done at airports, with additional testing after arrival could allow for a shortened quarantine period. This would help New Brunswick support continued economic growth while ensuring the protection of public health during the expected year-long process of vaccination.
We are a province with multiple cities acting as economic engines for their regions, in a country that is geographically the second largest in the world. WestJet has pulled out of our province until further notice. Porter Airlines is not flying. Air Canada has already drastically curtailed service and recently announced more cuts for the Atlantic provinces in January.
Airports are critical to New Brunswick’s economic recovery, and we cannot afford any further cuts in air service in this province.
The Fredericton International Airport has been fuelling growth in New Brunswick since it was transferred to a not-for-profit airport authority in 2001. Our track record is proven, and we have grown consistently for 10 years by providing air service that aligns with the needs of our community and local businesses.
Our impact is wide-reaching with over 20 businesses located at the Fredericton International Airport generating more than 320 jobs during normal times. When the indirect and induced economic impact of airport operations is considered, YFC supports a total of 662 jobs throughout western and central New Brunswick.
The community has been clear – convenient air access is critical for their ability to do business, attract investors, and attract newcomers to live here. Krista Ross, the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce penned a blog earlier this fall articulating how the province’s airports are an economic spark plug for business, tourism, and trade contributing over $777 million in total economic impact annually and accounting for nearly 4,000 FTE jobs throughout the province. She understands that cuts within the airport ecosystem have dire effects on the community’s ability to recover.
The Fredericton International Airport is run by a not-for-profit corporation with no shareholders. All the revenue generated here is invested directly back into our airport and our community. The economic health of our community is embedded into our mission statement, and the decisions we make about air service are always driven by this mission.
We are here to help central and western New Brunswick grow.
But we cannot do it alone – our air carriers, the federal and provincial governments, and our community all have a vital role to play. Together, we can rebuild and thrive once again.