Evidence of meeting #35 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was airships.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Right. What did they do to it?

10:10 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

Well, they were looking for this military contract, and everybody thought they were going to get it, and then surprisingly they did not. Northrop Grumman got it.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

So did they shelve the airship?

10:10 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

No, they still have it and they continue to do research on it. In fact a business in Calgary has been talking with them. I don't know the status of that, but they've looked at a civilian model of it as a possibility. But they certainly have continued to refine that vehicle since that time.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Mr. Toet.

May 8th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to start with Mr. Russell.

You gave us a pricing on air transport versus water transport, and it was ten to one. Where does the airship fit into that? Is it still at the $10 range, or is it coming down some?

10:10 a.m.

President, Livingstone Range Consulting Services

Stuart Russell

I think my comment was that the faster it goes, the more money it costs.

It's between a truck and an airplane. So it moves a little bit faster—80 to 100 miles per hour. It will fit somewhere in that program. So if water transportation is a dollar, I can hypothetically say that it's $6, instead of $10 for an airplane at 500 miles an hour. That's just an opinion.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Okay, but it gives us a range of what we're looking at.

Dr. Prentice, if I am a private investor—and I'm picking up a little bit from where Mr. Adler was going—what is my return on investment? Using the Manitoba example that you had, and the $100 million for a hangar and three aircraft, what's my ROI?

10:10 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

That's a very good question, and I guess that's part of the reason I don't see people lining up to make the investment: they don't know, and we can't guarantee this. In fact, we can't even guarantee at this point when we would do this, when we would get started under the current situation. Clearly Discovery Air has run the numbers, and they believe there's a profitable opportunity for them. They're looking at a 50-tonne-lift airship, as opposed to something that would be around 20 tonnes. Our feeling is that anything over 10-tonnes-lift actually would have a market in the north, because it would be more efficient than anything that is there today.

But the bigger you get, the better it is, obviously, because you have more tonnes per dollar of expense.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Surely somebody has done some work on how many tonnes are going to each different community up north and all those kinds of things, what the cost of bringing that up would be, and what the sell point could be, compared to what it is today with the winter roads, and not being able to bring it year-round. We talked a little bit about just-on-time delivery, all those aspects that will actually enhance the bottom line, not only for the airship company but also for the other companies that they're servicing.

So is there no idea at all, or are we talking five years or twenty years? Do we have any feeling at all on this?

10:10 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

I wish I could tell you the experts in Transport Canada were further along on this and would have those numbers, but quite frankly they haven't done the work to find out, so they don't have any advice for us. If you look across the country to find out who's done work on it, it's pretty much the University of Manitoba.

Given this is such a critical issue in terms of transportation for our north, you would think we would have a lot more understanding of what's been going on, or what the possibility is, but the investment has not been made.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

One of your recommendations would be, then, that there actually be some research into the cost-effectiveness of this.

10:15 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

It hasn't been done.

10:15 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

It hasn't been done. In fact I would even go further and say that we've been asking for ten years now. I had been meeting with people in Transport Canada. I've asked for a policy statement, even a statement that just says this is a topic we should be pursuing, and we have not yet been able to get that. It's a refusal to even address that issue.

When the policy branch doesn't endorse this or encourage it, the regulatory branch is certainly not going to move ahead of it. It also holds up the rest of the government.

I've also talked to people in Natural Resources Canada, Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada, and Industry Canada, and the first question I always get asks what Transport Canada thinks about this. We're always back to the case that they won't say anything.