BY MATT DECOURCEY
The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, municipal leaders, and other stakeholders have identified the Fredericton International Airport as the key infrastructure that will boost our region’s bid to be leaders in the “smart” economy.
These community leaders are alarmed that our key infrastructure has been operating well over its capacity for nearly a decade.
They are concerned that continued inaction will amount to a significant drag on economic growth and jobs for our community.
As your Member of Parliament, I share the community’s concerns and I am convinced that the expansion of our airport is integral to our prosperity and that it is in alignment with the federal government’s Atlantic Growth Strategy and Innovation Agenda.
I am working closely with the airport authority and its stakeholders to secure funding for airport expansion.
I have repeatedly written to and spoken with my colleagues, including the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of Transport, to emphasize the need to address the funding situation at the Fredericton International Airport.
When making the case for the expansion of our airport, here are some of the compelling facts:
The Fredericton International Airport currently employs nearly 300 individuals and if permitted to achieve its potential could employ more than 1000 people by 2030.
The Canadian Forces, the single largest employer and an important part of the social and economic fabric of our region — Base Gagetown contributes more than $600 million to the provincial economy each year, and $230 million in our region alone — relies on the airport for the efficient movement of our women and men in uniform throughout the country and around the world.
Our entrepreneurs and business leaders in the Capital region, the Upper River Valley and Central New Brunswick rely on this resource daily. Companies such as Lincoln-based Leading Edge Geomatics (Emerging Exporter of the Year in 2016) say that a properly functioning airport is key to fully capitalizing on their potential as New Brunswick companies operating throughout the world.
Our post-secondary institutions also identify the airport as a key priority.
Our region is home to the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, the Centre for Healthy Living, the Atlantic Institute on Aging, and the Emera and NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies, among others. These new and growing areas of our regional economy require transportation support to take full advantage of their momentum and the jobs being created through their world-class research and development.
New Brunswick’s post-secondary schools, key to our innovation pipeline, draw hundreds of international students each year, with officials noting air access as an issue.
The federal government and four Atlantic provincial governments have implemented an Atlantic Growth Strategy to help drive economic development and job growth. The first area of focus for the Ministers and Premiers is immigration and skilled labour, again relying on adequate transportation infrastructure.
So too is our economic future hinged on reliable and efficient access to global export markets. Again, this requires air transportation to and through larger trade hubs.
All of the examples outlined above are exciting and encouraging illustrations of what is currently informing economic growth in our region and what can be achieved for our communities.
The federal government has made investing in infrastructure an essential part of our plan to support and grow the middle class. Infrastructure is a key driver of any community’s economic and social development.
What is clear is that airport expansion is vital for our region and the key drivers of our economy to thrive.
The local leadership on this file deserves praise. The Fredericton International Airport, our municipalities, our economic development organizations, and many other stakeholders have undertaken thorough campaigns to raise awareness of this issue and work constructively toward a solution.
As mentioned, I remain focused on finding a solution that allows our airport to access funding programs, and I am committed to continue working with the relevant ministers, my colleagues in Ottawa, and community leaders here in our region, to see that one is found.