Yellowknife Airport Hours of Operation, pt. 1

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The last questions I asked on the last day of our last sitting were about the Yellowknife airport hours of operations. Just to refresh everyone’s memory: sometimes when people are en route to Hay River, they fly through Yellowknife. If a flight gets in late, at midnight, one in the morning, then they assume they are going to be staying at the airport until they can check in at four in the morning. But, what happens is the airport closes for those three and a half hours. I asked the Minister before – this is the third time I will be asking these questions – I asked him: when we implement the airport revolving fund, will we be able to keep the airport open 24 hours? Sometimes in the winter, people have to leave the airport overnight, and sometimes there is nowhere to go: sometimes there are no hotels, sometimes they cannot afford to take a taxi to Tim Horton’s. He said he would look into it once we get the airport revolving fund. He Well, I’ve gotten a confirmation letter stating that they will not be opening the airport 24 hours unless there are flights departing or leaving during the time it is currently closed.

I would like to ask the Minister: when can we expect new flights to be added that are going to be departing or leaving at around two in the morning so that we can keep this airport open? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER: Masi. Minister of Infrastructure.

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, the Member is right. We did send a letter stating that presently we are not changing hours of operation of the airport. The reason we are doing that is because costs have to match offsetting revenues that are brought in. This is early days on the revolving fund. We know this is going to be an economic driver. We have had people already contact us about direct flights. As most Members already know, Air Canada has said they are going to put a direct flight on from Vancouver in November. We have a number of carriers that are looking at promoting this as a destination and direct flights, and we will continue to work on that.

SIMPSON: Winter is coming up quickly. These rocks in Yellowknife don’t absorb much heat, so when it gets cold, it gets really cold. So that people do not get locked out in the middle of night in the middle of winter, can the Minister commit to at least keeping a portion of the airport open overnight, with or without security?

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: As I have said, the costs must be offset by revenues, and this is not the case. We have not changed our hours of operation, and moving forward until such time that this happens, we will not be keeping the airport beyond the posted hours that we have right now.

SIMPSON: By approving this revolving fund, apparently we have freed up $4 million that the GNWT was subsidizing the airport to, and apparently it is going to bring in a few million. We’ve got about an $8 million swing here. I see the Minister is unwilling to spend any of that to keep the airport open to solve the situation where people find themselves locked out in the middle of winter in Yellowknife with no money and nowhere to go. So, I have a free solution for the Minister. I have an old metal barrel. Will the Minister let me put this barrel somewhere on the airport property so that travellers can huddle around and burn their luggage for warmth?

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: I think you are going to have to take that up with the carbon tax moving forward.

As I have stated, we will look at this, hours of operation, when revenues are coming in to offset the costs. Things are moving forward. This is early days. We will continue to monitor this. The advisory board is in place moving forward. Very shortly, they will be commencing to have their first meeting.

As the Member stated, we have freed up some cash. The physical needs of what the airport needs moving forward are far beyond what the Government of the Northwest Territories could handle before. This gives us an opportunity to address those things, because everyone in this House knows probably the biggest complaint about the Yellowknife airport is the CATSA system and the line-up getting onto your airplane. We are trying to free up money to work towards that. I think later on this month we are going to be moving forward on some initiatives, and at this point I cannot speak to them, but we are moving in a positive direction.

SPEAKER: Masi. Oral questions. Member for Hay River North.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What work has the department done on the liability issues surrounding kicking people out of a government building in the middle of the night when there is really nowhere around where they can go where there is some warmth? Has the government looked into any of those types of issues? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: I would have to look into the exact legalities of that, but there are probably more legalities if we left the person inside the building when there is no security or people in place to make sure nothing is going on. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


oral quesiton airport hours