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Transport committee  Students travel back and forth almost every holiday weekend. I don't see that as an issue in our market at all. Our airfares are very affordable. In the past—you are correct—it was an impediment to kids pursuing post-secondary education, but I think that since we've been in the market, that's changed.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  Yes, absolutely.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  The northern economies are all growing and the trajectory is positive. We've seen historical travel growth, and I think we'll continue to see it. The need to facilitate it and improve the infrastructure will only increase.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  The note about impacting demand is huge. Air travel is very price-elastic. The higher the cost, the less people are going to travel. Part of this study was driven by the perception that domestic airfares are too high. Your market study, which I think is going to be part of the process, is going to disclose that the primary reason airfares are high is the cost of flying in Canada.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  I spoke a bit about the difference between our turboprop routes, our northern routes, and our southern routes and the increased costs and operational challenges. Shelly mentioned similar challenges with Canadian North. The investment in infrastructure and the ability to upgrade our fleets is limited by the gravel runways that we operate into, the lack of LPV approaches in the north and the higher weather limits.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  Well, I think you're referring to the essential air services program in the States, and I believe that is a subsidy program. I've never been a big advocate of subsidies. I think that there are other ways to accomplish what you want to accomplish. I think that the policy front and the regulatory front have steps that can be taken to allow regional carriers to compete.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  We don't have toll booths on our highways. We all agree that highways are necessary pieces of infrastructure, and the funding for highways is generally provided out of the public coffers. Aviation is treated differently. The airport rents are probably the biggest example of where the government is expecting users to pay for that infrastructure.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  In general, the thought is that we have to have more competition, but bringing in more big players—and, in the big scheme, some of them are international players—does not always produce optimal results. Look at Canadians right now. Consumers are paying too much for groceries, too much for fuel, too much for cell service, yet the providers of those goods and services, which are often large and multinational corporations, are making record profits.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  We're a small market, and the small players need to survive. Thanks.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  That's correct, yes.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  Well, I think the key to success for regional service is not bringing in more big guys but rather making sure the little guys can compete. Interline agreements are just one way of accomplishing that. That was recommended in the 2000 TRAN report, in which consolidation was foreseen.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  Absolutely. As Shelly pointed out, the big carriers have no interest in going to the smallest of communities, but they do have an interest in going to what we'll call the northern hubs. That's probably where we're at a little bit of disagreement with them. I think there's a win-win situation for the regional carriers to be feeding the mainline carriers, but more so in the southern gateways than in the northern hubs.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  I'm sorry. We must have lost Internet service here. Was your question about the shortage of maintenance personnel?

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  Well, I think the labour shortage is industry-wide, and it really goes across multiple industries. We've been relatively fortunate on the pilot front, and we are fully staffed on the maintenance front, but we're seeing that when we tender for jobs, we're not getting a lot of résumés.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling

Transport committee  Well, reconciliation is a mandate of both levels of government. I think there's the investment by the Vuntut Gwichin in Air North, and certainly Canadian North is first nation-owned as well. That's a reality of business in the north now. First nations are an emerging force in the northern economy.

May 30th, 2024Committee meeting

Joseph Sparling