Coun. Harris advocates for airport in Ottawa

Red Deer city coun. Paul Harris took the opportunity to advocate for the Red Deer Airport at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Advocacy Days in Ottawa last week.

Red Deer city coun. Paul Harris took the opportunity to advocate for the Red Deer Airport at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Advocacy Days in Ottawa last week.

Harris said on Monday that one of the challenges the airport faces is federal funding tied to the number of passengers.

In Red Deer’s case, 1,000 scheduled passengers is required.

“One year it’s 980 (passengers), which cuts off our funding,” said Harris.

“There have been a couple of years that we have been over that but we don’t get our funding back.”

Harris said that’s a bit of a challenge when you cannot rely on that funding considering the airport is one of the largest and most successful regional airports in Canada.

The airport is looking at applying for customs designation through CanPass, a series of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) programs expediting the border clearance process for frequent, low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada. Harris brought this up at the committee meetings, too.

“Other municipalities faced similar challenges with regional airports,” said Harris.

“Three of the committees had brought this idea forward that we need to review our regional airports and put together some lobbying efforts together to help the federal government serve us a little better.”

Harris joined more than 100 other municipal leaders for meetings with MPs and senators to discuss Canada’s long-term infrastructure plans and other issues, including the gas tax fund and the Building Canada Fund, which ends in 2013.

Harris said the municipalities have been working for more than a year to create a proposal to replace the funding.

“We have been working with (Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister) Denis Lebel,” said Harris.

“He has said to us numerous times he’s expecting something will be in the (federal) budget but he wants to make sure we do our consultation work right across the country.”

Another key issue was the gas tax fund that is distributed to municipalities across the country.

Harris said because the fund is not indexed, it is losing value.

“Our proposal is to increase the gas tax funding by $2 billion to municipalities, plus indexing so we can rely on it year after year,” said Harris.

“The gas tax we can use for anything in the municipality for infrastructure. We can use if for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. That kind of advocacy work is really important. Municipalities really rely on it.”

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