Recent History 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak — October 19, 2005
Mayor Wayne Dahlen said he still supports the subsidy that the Dawson Creek Airport receives despite the news that the facility’s only commercial client is restructuring its operations.
“I have to remain optimistic because they are the only carrier,” said Dahlen about Hawkair after the regular meeting of city council on Monday.
According to Shelly Woolf, the chief financial officer for the city, the 2004 airport subsidy was $388,800. For 2005, the budgeted amount is $530,600.
Hawkair submitted an information sheet to city council explaining that the Terrace-based airline has invoked the Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act in order to restructure its debt. Companies, who have at least $5 million in debt, can use the act to protect itself from creditors while they reorganize their business. Earlier this year, Hawkair cut 38 per cent of its workforce and reduced its routes and plane.
“They have met with us, they have assured us that they are here for the long haul and asked if we could bear with them until they get their house in order,” said Dahlen. “Our staff is monitoring it on a monthly basis.”
Dahlen said that the airport subsidy originated when the federal government gave the city an ultimatum in the 1990s.
“The federal government gave us the option way back in the ’90s, ‘do we want to close the airport down or take it over as a municipal airport’,” he said. “It was a decision of the council of the day to take it over and make it viable. Since then council has tried to make it viable.”
However, in the cutthroat air transit business, with the mounting pressure from security and fuel costs, Dahlen is the first admit that it has not been easy.
“In order to be competitive at one point we had the highest landing fees in the area which was brought to our attention by Central Mountain Air,” he said. “So we lowered our landing fees to be more competitive and you know what happened there.”
CMA pulled out of Dawson Creek altogether earlier this year, citing low loads for its flight between the city and Prince George. Despite the challenges and the expected withdrawal of NAV Canada navigational services from the area next spring, the mayor believes the city needs an airport.
“It is still a struggle being between the Grande Prairie and Fort St. John airports,” he said. “It’s a struggle but at the same time I think that we in the South Peace, with the growth that is anticipated, we have got to try to maintain an airport even if we don’t have commercial airlines.”