North Bay City Council has voted to move forward with a plan that would have taxpayer dollars support the North Bay Jack Garland Airport.
City staff presented a report before council on July 21, recommending that:
- Staff partner with the airport to connect with resources that can financially support their operating budget
- Staff find $1.5 million in funds to aid the airport’s 2021 operating budget
- The City will subsidize the airport’s remaining 2020 budget
Council voted to move forward with the first point of the motion unanimously, agreeing that it will send a message to the provincial and federal governments in hopes of securing more money.
Councillor Mark King voted against the final two points of the report, saying that it’s unclear if the City could afford to support the airport on its own.
“I think that this council has been put into a corner with this financial request. How can we justify taking tax dollars from someone who’s been out of business for four months?” questioned King. “You’re taking the province and the federal government off the hook.”
King added that because the airport is used by national defence agencies like the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that the federal government should be obligated to help out.
The North Bay Jack Garland Airport is operated by the North Bay Jack Garland Airport Corporation (NBJGAC). The NBJGAC has been functioning as the non-profit governing entity since 2003. In the agreement, the City is obligated to financially assist the airport if it is needed.
“At the City’s sole and absolute discretion, if financial assistance becomes necessary to facilitate specific operations or expenditures of the NBJGAC, the City shall work with it to find options,” the report reads.
Since the City and the airport’s 2003 agreement, the NBJGAC has been self-sufficient, not needing any money from the City for its operating costs.
In April, the NBJGAC asked the City for financial assistance to help weather the losses that were expected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the airport runs out of its savings, the City will provide up to $200,000 per month until the end of 2020. The report says that this is expected to start in September and will likely only need about $125,000 per month.
With Air Canada cancelling its regular flights between Toronto and North Bay, the NBJGAC believes they will need up to $1.5 million for its 2021 operating budget – 70 percent of its normal budget. Councillors are adamant that Air Canada should not be a determining factor, saying that the airport can still comfortably operate without its regular flights.
The report also included an Economic Impact Study, outlining that the airport is a key piece of infrastructure for the North Bay economy. The airport provides over 420 full-time jobs and contributes over $57 million to the City’s GDP. It is also used to house other revenue-generating, job-creating projects like Canadore College’s aviation program and Chorus Aviation.
City staff will now work alongside the NBJGAC to reach out to governments and businesses to find money to support the airport through the pandemic.