Madam Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for being here this evening. I appreciate it.
The ice storm that hit the Magdalen Islands in February 2012 demonstrated the importance of transportation infrastructure and focused attention on extending the runway at the Magdalen Islands airport, an issue that has dragged on for 30 years.
At the time of this sad event, Quebec Premier Jean Charest noted the importance of extending the runway. Subsequently, we learned that, during this major power outage, the airport's generator failed. I would like to remind members that the Magdalen Islands archipelago is located more than 100 kilometres from the Gaspé, in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The residents of the Magdalen Islands revel in their isolation, but it does create major transportation challenges, which the Conservative government must address. Air transportation is the only direct link between the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands. The alternative is very long: a five-hour ferry ride to Prince Edward Island and then a ten-hour drive to the Gaspé.
Airport service is vital in emergency situations, as well as for personal travel, business and tourism. The federal government has recognized this situation by designating the Magdalen Islands airport as a remote airport. Transport Canada therefore manages the airport.
Since 1983, the main runway has been 4,500 feet long, when most runways in less remote areas are 5,500 feet or longer. Why do the people of the Magdalen Islands have one of the shortest runways in Quebec? In extreme weather conditions, planes are often forced to call off their landing or turn back.
The air ambulance, which transports patients who cannot be treated on the Magdalen Islands, also faces the same situation. The people of the Magdalen Islands are wondering if this government realizes that, for people living in remote communities, this transportation infrastructure is crucial and that they should not have to settle for second-class infrastructure.
The existing runway is hindering economic development. Such a short runway limits the kind of aircraft that can land regularly and is preventing larger carriers from serving the islands. The people of the Magdalen Islands are worried about the future renewal of air fleets—meaning Dash 8s. The community has been rallying for years now to have the runway lengthened.
Lengthening the runway by 1,400 feet in two stages would help support the development of the archipelago, promote safe landings in frequent extreme weather conditions and reduce the number of cancelled flights and missed approaches. The islands want development. We have more tourism, more exports and more young people who are leaving the island to continue their training than we did 30 years ago.
The people of the Magdalen Islands are looking towards the future and calling on Transport Canada to do the same regarding the airport. Will this government finally support the people of the Magdalen Islands?