Wally Schumann: NWT Airport Improvements

May 31, 2018
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Delivered on May 31, 2018

Mr. Speaker, for many communities across the North, air travel is an essential service. The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to improving airport infrastructure and operations by working and strengthening connections with public and private sector partners in transportation infrastructure.

The Northwest Territories’ 27 community airports are critical to the economic and social well-being of our residents. They provide essential services, including community resupply, air ambulance, search and rescue, forest fire response, and much more.  Ongoing improvements to our airports allow for the safe and efficient movement of these and other essential goods. They also help our residents relatives and friends looking to stay connected do so in a more safe and efficient way. 

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide an update on key airport improvement projects underway across the NWT.

It was announced earlier this year that the federal government will be investing over $2 million toward new airfield lighting at the Fort Smith Airport.  This work is now underway and not only will the new lights be more effective for aircraft pilots and airport maintainers, they are also energy efficient LED lighting, which will help our government meet territorial and national commitments to lower energy consumption. Similar lighting replacement projects were completed last fall at the Tuktoyaktuk and Norman Wells airports.

The GNWT has also received over $300,000 for a new airfield sweeper for the Norman Wells Airport. This improvement will help keep snow, ice, and debris off runways and taxiways, which is an important aspect of maintaining our airports. The new sweeper will also allow for more reliable and effective airport operations.

Mr. Speaker, both of these projects are funded under the Airport Capital Assistance Program, also known as ACAP.

ACAP is administered by Transport Canada and provides financial support to eligible airports for the replacement of key infrastructure and assets related to safety. The program has made a significant impact on the NWT airports system with over $27 million in improvements over the last 20 years. With this financial support, the Government of Canada is helping to enhance not only safety and efficiency but also the economic potential of transportation infrastructure in the Northwest Territories. 

The GNWT is currently awaiting approval for funding from ACAP on a number of airport improvement projects. These include funding for a snow blower for Fort Smith, new airfield lighting in Fort Simpson, an overlay of the Hay River runway, and reconstruction of taxiway C in Inuvik.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the biggest airport project currently underway is the replacement of the air terminal building in Inuvik. The current terminal was built in 1958 and is in need of replacement. The GNWT has budgeted $30 million for this important infrastructure project that will serve residents and visitors travelling to Inuvik and beyond.

Detailed design and site preparation is expected to happen by this fall. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2019 followed by demolition of the existing air terminal building in 2021 once the new build has reached substantial completion and is commissioned.   Design of the building will focus on public space, baggage systems, concessions, airport operation and administration, improved accessibility, and a tower height that meets required specifications. Overall, travellers will notice an improved passenger experience and an airport that better fits the needs of various users.

Mr. Speaker, as the largest and busiest aviation gateway to the North, Yellowknife Airport continues to focus on improvements that contribute to economic growth and a better passenger experience. In July of 2017, Yellowknife Airport began operating as a self-sustaining business model and, since that time, it has collected $10.5 million in revenues.

Recent enhancements at Yellowknife Airport include the launch of the Cabin gift shop, which has already received positive feedback from local, national and international visitors wishing to take home souvenirs of their uniquely northern stay. Merchandise is sourced from Northern suppliers, providing additional income to some of the many small businesses operating across our territory.

Yellowknife Airport is also working with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, known as CATSA, on major upgrades to the pre-board screening area and departures lounge.  These improvements will allow CATSA to have a more efficient security screening process. We anticipate upgrades to the pre-board screening area will be complete by the end of June, just in time for the peak summer travel season.

Improvements to the departures lounge are also continuing in order to offer passengers a greater assortment of food and beverages to enjoy before their flights. The next phase, phase three of this project will also include improvements to the esthetics of the departures lounge, with new paint, new carpeting and an overall fresh look.

Mr. Speaker, another major initiative at Yellowknife Airport that I’d like to share with you is the development of a 20-year Master Plan. The plan will consider growth and improvement options for the airport and serve as a guide to future development initiatives. We are exploring a number of options to further contribute to the Airport’s sustainable business model, increase employment and economic growth and development. A few of the considerations include commercial development, new partnership opportunities, and improved service delivery for our existing stakeholders.

The Department of Infrastructure aims to maintain a safe and secure multi-modal transportation system.  We will continue to work with our federal partners, air carriers and other stakeholders to make improvements to our air transportation system while investigating new ways to make strategic investments in our infrastructure.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.