Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to follow my seatmate, my colleague here, and his comments.
On the issue of the Cranbrook airport, when the city of Cranbrook took over the airport response times were stipulated at that point. Now, as we have just been discussing, response times are totally different . What it basically means is that there was an absolutely unpredictable, unforecastable expense that is now facing the city of Cranbrook and the Cranbrook airport.
I want to speak briefly, in the context of Bill C-27, about the city of Cranbrook and the Cranbrook airport. It is unique, as are all smaller airports, I am sure. It is unique in the fact that the overall airport traffic in the early eighties was approximately 155,000 passengers and today it is down to under 90,000 travelling passengers. This is a combination of two things.
One thing is that at that time, in the early eighties, with the amount of development that was happening in the Crow's Nest and people coming to the Cranbrook airport in 737s from Vancouver and Calgary and then going on up to the Crow's Nest, we had a very large volume of people coming through the airport. That development work has stabilized and now, as a result, we have a very solid employment base. My constituency, I should say, produces about a quarter of the world's metallurgical coal. Therefore, the development has taken place.
Now we end up with the situation that the airlines have chosen, to downgrade from 737s to Dash 8 300s, Dash 8 100s, Beechcraft 1900s and so on, the imperative being that the fewer the number of passengers on the plane the lower the landing fee. Therefore, because the landing fees have been increasing, they have been decreasing the number of passengers as they have been able to.
At the same time the government has consistently increased the taxes on airline travel, to the point that now it costs over $700 for a round trip between Cranbrook and Vancouver. It is absolutely outrageous. Furthermore, most people end up leaving the Cranbrook area, driving over to Calgary and taking advantage of WestJet and other discount carriers in the area.
In response to that, and because we have so many worldclass recreation facilities, unimaginable ski hills, golf courses, everything anyone could possibly want in the form of recreation in our area, a proposal has been put forward to extend the Cranbrook airport runway from 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet. That would permit charter planes as large as 767s to fly directly from Europe into the Cranbrook airport, thereby bypassing Calgary and coming directly to the worldclass resorts that exist in my constituency.
It is a very worthy and worthwhile project but one can see how, with Bill C-27, which is basically a one size fits all kind of legislation, the requirements for the Cranbrook airport and the rules and regulations that will flow from Bill C-27, which will impact the Cranbrook airport, will be so substantially different than the regulations that would be in Castlegar in the west Kootenays, Cranbrook of course being in the east Kootenays, or I could refer to Lethbridge, which would be the next smaller airport to the east. The requirements for the Cranbrook airport will be so substantially different to the requirements for the Castlegar airport and Lethbridge airport that it is impossible under Bill C-27 to come up with any possible way of establishing proper rules and regulations that would fit all.
I want to read from a briefing note about the Vancouver airport authority. The reason I want to read about that is that the Vancouver airport authority airport services, YVRAS, is an organization that has taken over the management of the Cranbrook airport.
Under section 57, the bill would limit an airport authority's ability to invest in another corporation to 2% of gross revenue a year. The YVRAS is concerned that this clause would limit its ability to finance its projects in Chile, Jamaica, Hamilton and, I am sure if we are successful in the current negotiations, the project in Cranbrook at the same time. YVR writes:
...investment opportunities do not come in neat bundles, nor do they arise every year. This is also a demonstration of an “Ottawa knows better” than the community based board about what is good for the community.
This is part of the one size fits all, only it is more specific to the management of the Cranbrook airport. YVR has been doing a credible job for us. There is a responsibility to the citizens of Cranbrook at this particular time.
With ongoing negotiations between the City of Cranbrook, the Regional District of East Kootenay and other municipalities, as well as provincial and federal governments, to possibly fund the issue of getting the 9,000 foot runway, this insecurity over the funding and the backing of YVRAS is a significant concern to me, representing the people of the east Kootenays.
This bill, as with all bills, misses opportunities. We are looking at the fact that under airport fees, for example, we know that the Cranbrook airport, along with many others, has been hit badly by the Air Canada bankruptcy. The difficulty is that many of the funds were not in a place of trust. If they had been put into a place of trust, these smaller airports would not have been hit in that way.
Although this bill is a sincere attempt on the part of the government, it is seriously flawed and should go back to the drawing board.