The Fredericton International Airport (YFC) is the top infrastructure priority for our region, and for good reason.
Twenty years ago, when the late Andy Scott was our MP it was a top priority as well. At that time, in doing what he could to make certain his colleagues agreed, he arranged a late night walk along the tarmac with then Finance Minister Paul Martin so that he could explain the need to expand the runway for commercial and military aviation.
Andy, who ironically was a Minister responsible for Infrastructure, understood the competition that takes place for every nickel of federal funds.
Andy taught me that securing federal infrastructure funds require more than a good idea. He taught me that it requires hard work, cooperation, and patience.
Hard work, cooperation, and patience
Thanks to the hard work, cooperation, and patience of all the stakeholders in this region, including all municipalities, I am confident that our project will proceed.
Federal government spending priorities are, by nature, complex and tightly controlled. Even expenditures that make good sense can get sidelined or caught in bureaucratic “red tape”. For example, when I started working on this project in 2015, our airport was not eligible for funding because it was located on federally owned land. We had to fix that and, through a great deal of hard work, cooperation and patience that barrier was removed.
Once the federal “red tape” was lifted last summer, our community leaders shifted focus to convincing provincial leaders that this project was a provincial priority. Earlier this month, the Province of New Brunswick agreed.
With the commitment of the provincial government, I have credibly organized our regional caucus to put the final push of this issue to Cabinet.
What I have told the Minister, who took his own tour of the facility this month, and what he will tell Cabinet is that the Fredericton International Airport is much more than bricks and mortar.
The airport is a strategic and economic asset that connects our community to the world’s economy, in a region whose economy sees thousands of military personnel traveling each year, in a community that hosts two research universities, a vibrant hi-tech sector, and impressive concentration of world-class engineers (working all over the world).
With the addition of Porter Airlines last September, YFC now has three year-round carriers, and statistics show that passenger traffic has grown in each of the last eight years.
Through direct, indirect, and induced economic activity, YFC brings 513 jobs, $8.5-million in taxes, and $24-million in GDP to New Brunswick every year.
The planned $30-million expansion of the terminal to handle 500,000 passengers a year is an absolute necessity. A larger terminal means more carriers and more investment in our region. In fact, just one new 50-seat aircraft, operating daily, will generate more than five million dollars and create nine full-time equivalent jobs.
The expansion will increase the size of the terminal by one third and will include improved energy efficiency, a more efficient departures area with a café, play area for kids, more seating, and more washrooms, a more efficient installation for the security lines, added ticket counters, and improved traffic flow.
As Fredericton becomes a model for economic development in our region, our airport will continue to play an important role.
Speaking of models, I want to recognize the hard work, cooperation, and patience demonstrated by all stakeholders in our community who unreservedly made this infrastructure “THE” priority. In a world of many good ideas and limited funds, the community’s clear focus is a model for success.