Senator Dennis Dawson: The Future of Air Travel and Our Airport System in Canada

Originally published: March 16, 2017

Privatizations, over the last few years and particularly in the areas of transports and  communications, have not all been failures. Far from it. But we must know where to draw the line. Currently, next door in Ontario, where hydro was privatized, political authorities are getting their heads handed to them as a result of cost increases to users that are so high that the Wynne government is threatened to fall in the next provincial elections. Those who invested in the privatization of Ontario electricity did so for one reason: they are expecting the most lucrative return possible on their investment.

Privatization of Canadian airports would obviously result in investors looking to obtain a satisfactory return on their investment.

The new owners would be searching for profit first and foremost, way ahead of the interests of users and taxpayers.

And there is no way to earn a return on these investments other than by reducing services or increasing costs to users. That’s not saying that costs won’t increase under the current model, but at least it won’t be in a context of making more money for investors, but rather with a view to improving services and the facilities available to users, while maintaining governance structures and mechanisms that ensure transparency, efficiency and accountability in the management of public property.

In a country of vast distances like Canada, airports play an essential role. They represent national heritage that must be protected from the gluttony of finance ministers seeking revenues and investors, often pension funds, looking for new projects.

In Australia, which is in many ways comparable to Canada, except for its climate… one of the staunchest advocates of privatizing public assets (his name is Rod Sims and he chairs the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has grown so exasperated with how governments are privatizing public assets that he says they need an “uppercut.”

He claims that governments have repeatedly botched the sale of airports, electricity infrastructure and major ports, making things worse for consumers.

Read the rest at the The Senate of Canada.