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WHEREAS regional airports are an important asset for regional community development and essential transportation connectivity to the world; and
WHEREAS the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) was established in 1995 to fund safety-related infrastructure projects for small and regional airports transferred to local control; and
WHEREAS the current $38 million annually allocated to ACAP to support over 200 smaller regional airports in Canada has not increased, and Consumer Price Index inflation has not been considered, since the fund’s inception; and
WHEREAS adequate ACAP funding is critical to the safety of regional/local airports; and
WHEREAS municipalities cannot be expected to carry the financial burden of maintaining regional airports on their own;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request the Government of Canada to review and increase funding for the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP);
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA request support from all relevant federal, provincial, municipal, and business associations for ACAP funding for regional airports in Canada.
The County of Grande Prairie received a letter from the Grande Prairie Airport asking for a resolution from County Council to support a national initiative to bring awareness to a critical shortfall in federal funding from the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP).
ACAP was established in 1995 under the Government of Canada’s National Airports Policy. Under this Policy there was a devolution of smaller airports to local control from the Government of Canada. ACAP was established to support regional and small airport infrastructure and to fund safety-related infrastructure projects. Airports eligible for ACAP funding have increased from 71 to nearly 200. The current funding levels fund less than 20% of eligible airports.
Transport Canada provides the following additional information on ACAP:
“Estimated projects for the next 5 years identifies the need for an annual funding allocation of $95M. Airports are expected to contribute to projects under a criteria format calculated by passenger activity not taking into account airport financial capabilities. The inability of regional/local airports to provide their portions of project funding is restricting their abilities to apply for program funding for critical projects.” – Regional Community Airports of Canada
“The Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) has been funding improvement projects for regional airports since 1995. To date, the Government has invested more than $785.9 million for 904 projects at 182 airports.
In addition to supporting personal travel and tourism, smaller regional airports provide:
Although regional airports play an essential role in Canada’s air transportation sector, they can struggle to raise enough revenue for operations. The program addresses this issue by funding projects that:
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
The Rural Municipalities of Alberta requested support from all relevant federal, provincial, municipal and business associations for Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) funding for regional airports in Canada. The Government of Alberta is not involved in administering the ACAP program, and is not directly involved in the allocation of funding.
Transport Canada administers the federal ACAP, which provides funding for regional (smaller in size and scale) airports across Canada. The threshold for airports to qualify for ACAP is fewer than 525,000 passengers per year, with a minimum of 1,000 passengers per year on year-round commercial passenger services with regular schedules. The airports should also meet federal certification requirements. The purpose of funding is to maintain or improve safety levels at the airports.
The ACAP has provided total funding of over $785.9 million since the program launched in 1995, and a number of regional airports in Alberta have received a considerable amount of funding. In 2018, the High Level Airport received close to $6 million and Fort Chipewyan Airport received over $1.5 million from ACAP. In 2019, the Grande Prairie airport received close to $500,000 and the Lloydminster Airport received over $5 million.
However, Alberta Transportation and the Government of Alberta have advocated Transport Canada and the Government of Canada to reduce the financial burden on airports by reducing airport rents, security fees, and other fees, in order to improve the cost competitiveness of the Canadian aviation system.
Increasing the funding for ACAP will assist the airports in the province to provide their much-needed services to the communities, as well as support the economic growth and development of the province’s economy.
Alberta Transportation administers the Community Airports Program (CAP), which provides funding to small community airports that do not have regularly scheduled flights for the purpose of rehabilitation and pavement overlays of the primary runway, taxiways, and aprons. Projects approved under CAP are eligible for funding up to 75 per cent of the cost of the project. Municipalities submit requests to Alberta Transportation on behalf of the airport situated within their jurisdiction, along with their commitment to share the cost of the proposed project.
Eligible projects are considered based on the following key criteria: basic need, safety and functionality, impacts on the overall transportation network, number of flights and passengers annually, as well as economic, social, environmental, or innovation benefits to the region. In 2017, CAP allocated $2 million to fund six airport projects throughout the province. In 2018, eight projects from across the province were approved for a total of $2.3 million. In 2019, five projects were approved for a total of $1.7 million.
In addition, small community airports may access infrastructure funding under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) administered by Alberta Municipal Affairs. All municipalities are eligible for MSI funding for capital or operating projects. Airports need to work closely with local municipal authorities in order to apply for this funding program. Municipalities determine projects and activities to be funded based on local priorities within the general criteria set out in the program guidelines and are encouraged to take a long-term approach to planning for capital projects.
Eligible projects include capital projects, such as municipal roads, bridges, and regional and community airport facilities or equipment, and operating projects, such as municipal services, planning activities, and assistance to non-profit organizations. Municipalities have been allocated $9.8 billion since the MSI program launched in 2007. In 2019, MSI was expected to allocate $671 million in funding. This funding can be used, among others, for airports, if municipalities identify them as key local priorities.
RMA has not yet received a response from Transport Canada, making it not possible to evaluate their response to the first therefore clause. However, Alberta Transportation’s response does clarify their role in funding capital costs for regional airports. While Alberta Transportation is not involved with the ACAP funding, they do administer the Community Airports Program (CAP), which supports small airports. This supports the operation of regional airports outside of the ACAP program. Until a response from Transport Canada is received, this resolution is assigned the status of Incomplete Information.