Wally Schumann: Economic Potential of the Yellowknife Airport

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to provide an overview of the Department of Transportation’s efforts to capture economic opportunities at the Yellowknife Airport.

The Department is taking steps to make the Yellowknife Airport financially self-sufficient. By running the Airport more like a business, we will be able to make capital improvements, create jobs, and explore opportunities to drive economic growth across the territory.

The Yellowknife Airport is crucial to the territorial economy and creates 1,000 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs. We need to be sure we are capturing these opportunities for the people and businesses of the Northwest Territories.

The Department has undertaken extensive engagement with stakeholders on the proposed changes and improvements to the Yellowknife Airport. We have actively sought and received feedback about ideas for improvements to the airport and ways to increase economic opportunities associated with it.

We learned that people are looking for increased business services, expanded food and beverage options, more parking options, streamlined check-in, a better sense of place, improved de-icing capabilities for on-time performance, more direct flights to more cities and a commercial plan to drive business at and around the airport.  Safety of course will remain our number one priority.

The Department has prepared a draft business plan for the Yellowknife Airport using this feedback and input from experts in the aviation industry experienced in airport commercial development. This plan has been shared broadly and is available for public review and input.

The improvements identified in this plan will help to ensure a safe, secure and efficient facility, making the overall travel experience more enjoyable for visitors and residents.

To make these changes possible, the Department is proposing to increase fees, with all revenue collected at the airport being deposited into a revolving fund. The revolving fund will ensure that all revenues collected at the Yellowknife Airport will only be spent on the Yellowknife Airport. This fund is separate from general GNWT revenues and would allow management to make the improvements noted in the draft business plan. The airport would no longer require a subsidy from the GNWT.

Across North America, airports are important economic drivers and play a key role in generating additional economic growth, creating jobs, and providing an enjoyable travel experience for resident and visitors alike.

As we move forward in this process, we look forward to working with all stakeholders to gather additional input on how these improvements will unfold.

Mr. Speaker, improving territorial transportation infrastructure will remain one of the priorities of this government, as part of our commitments to support business and employment opportunities, and maximize opportunities to realize our economic potential.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.