The Honourable Senator Peter Harder, Government Representative in the Senate
June 7, 2017
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Your Honour, my question to the Government Representative is about the report tabled on May 17 in regard to remote northern airports. This is where air travel is the only year-round form of transportation, as found by the Auditor General of Canada. He found that Transport Canada has failed in its duty to promote safe and secure transportation for civil aviation and that the department did not lead coordinated efforts to address the unique challenge these airports faced.
You know, leader, all of Nunavut’s communities are remote. Therefore, the airports are essential for health, safety and quality of life. They are all in need of improvements. The needs assessment of the Government of Nunavut in 2014 estimated the cost to address the infrastructure needs of its 24 airports was over $400 million. However, the government’s Airport Capital Assistance Program only funded $15 million for northern and remote airports in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Especially in light of the Auditor General’s very critical report, will the government be establishing a funding mechanism that properly addresses the civil aviation infrastructure deficits of the North, and will there be a specific allocation for Nunavut, recognizing its unique needs and remoteness?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and his advocacy for Nunavut. I want to convey to the Senate and to the senator the government’s priority in maintaining safe and efficient air services in the North.
The Minister of Transport, on the day the AG’s report was released, welcomed that report and indicated that that report would go some distance in informing the government on its actions going forward and, indeed, that the government agrees with the Auditor General’s recommendations and has committed itself to collaborating with territorial governments, including that of Nunavut, indigenous groups and northern communities to identify priorities for northern infrastructure transportation and to determine the priority investments.
I would also reference for the honourable senator’s attention the government’s Budget 2017, which addressed critical transportation needs in Canada’s North, including improving northern airport infrastructure through a $2 billion allocation over 11 years through the National Trade Corridors Fund in addition to a $2 billion fund for rural and northern communities.
Again, I want to thank the honourable senator for his interest in these matters.