The Next Step

Aug. 8, 2001

The Next Step

Airports Act to address rent issue

August 2001

As the government of Canada continues with its transfer of airports program, one of the key issues among the largest National Airports System facilities is the current rent policy in a system short on federal funding support.

In response, the Transport Minister David Collenette in June announced that the Government of Canada intends to develop a Canada Airports Act and undertake a review of the current rent policy for leased airports. The review impacts those 26 airports in the National Airports System which remain under federal ownership and have been transferred to local authorities under 60-year leases with 20-year options.
According to Transport Canada, the legislation will provide a framework for airports that will spell out more clearly the roles and responsibilities of airport authorities, including principles for setting fees, oversight of subsidiaries, and the requirement to respect Canada’s international obligations as they affect airports.
A draft bill is expected to be released later this year, and will also undertake a rent review following requests by airports and communities.
The proposed Canada Airports Act will address, among other things:
• clarifying roles and responsibilities of the federal government and local authorities;
• strengthening governance for authorities;
• establishing principles for charges imposed by authorities, including special provisions for Airport Improvement Fees (equivalent of the U.S. Passenger Facility Charge);
• establishing appropriate enforcement mechanisms.
A key objective of the legislation, according to Transport Canada, will be to create adequate opportunity for users of airport facilities to provide meaningful input into major airport-related decisions.
The move is the next step in the overall reinvention of the Canadian airport system, begun in the late 1980s. In 1994, the National Airports Policy outlined steps for the federal government to divest itself either of ownership and/or airport operations.
As of May 1, 119 of the 136 airports identified in three categories under the NAP were transferred primarily to not-for-profit entities.
Other categories for airports besides the 26 under the NAS include 71 regional/local airports; 31 small airports not having commercial airline service; and, 13 remote airports that serve as community lifelines.

A $30 Billion Impact
In 1999, the Canadian Airports Council released results of a study, "Economic Impact of Canadian Airports Report," which projected that Canada’s airfields generate some $30 billion (Canadian) of economic activity, accounting for an estimated 300,000 jobs.