Statement by the Airport Partnership to highlight the risks to Canadian travellers if the government ‘cashes in’ by selling Canada’s major airports

Originally published: February 8, 2017

CALGARY, OTTAWA, VANCOUVER, February 08, 2017 – the partnership consisting of the Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver airport authorities issued the following statement today in response to the CD Howe Institute’s A Better Flight Path: How Ottawa can Cash In on Airports and Benefit Travellers by Steven Robins:

“The prospect of “cashing in”, as Mr. Robins puts it, on the sale of Canada’s major airports to private for-profit business interests is no doubt appealing to the federal government. But while Mr. Robins makes much of the potential (one-time) revenue such a sale might generate, he glosses over the very real long-terms risks to Canadians of a sell-off. When it was tried in the U.K. and Australia, the sale of their airports did not produce the promised returns to the government and did not deliver the anticipated tax revenues. What did happen is that customer fees increased and service levels for passengers declined, leading Australia’s Competition Commissioner to say that the sale of these assets “is severely damaging (Australia’s) economy.” More information can be found here.

A National Post story penned by John Ivison claims that an unnamed former airline executive said “I don’t know anyone, anywhere who can’t make money out of managing an airport. They are cash cows”. We don’t believe that airlines and passengers would appreciate being characterized in that manner – in fact, the CEO of Air Canada has stated publicly that he is against selling airports because costs would increase.

“Canada’s award-winning airports are recognized as being among the most efficient in the world. They operate without receiving any government funding and have contributed over $1 billion in rents and other fees to the federal government since privatization. Selling off Canada’s airports to private for-profit business interests would put all of that at risk, costing our passengers and our communities. That is a mistake Canada cannot afford.”

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