Stephenville airport needs more help: MP
The Liberal MP whose riding includes the struggling Stephenville Airport wants to know why the provincial government isn't asking Ottawa for help to keep it going.
The Danny Williams government's offer last March of a $600,000 line of credit to help the Stephenville Airport Corporation develop a business plan isn't adequate, said Judy Foote, who represents the federal riding of Random-Burin-St. George's.
"The line of credit is not enough to do the work that needs to be done there," she said Monday.
The small airport in southwestern Newfoundland has been trying to stay afloat for years. The latest sign of trouble came last week, when talks with Tennessee-based KAZ Aviation to take over the airport broke down. Then Shawn Tilley, the head of the volunteer board that runs the airport corporation, quit.
Foote said the province would have to tell the federal government that it considers the Stephenville airport a priority in order to access federal funds.
She also said the province needs to get more directly involved, instead of leaving the airport's future in the hands of a small volunteer board.
Shawn Skinner, the provincial cabinet minister responsible for rural development, points out that in March, his government increased the amount of government money available to the Stephenville Airport Corporation to develop a business plan.
"They came forward and basically said, 'Look, we have a willingness to make something work here; we need some time to do it and we need some money.' So we did increase their line of credit up to $600,000," Skinner said.
The airport's board already owes the Town of Stephenville more than $3 million, leading councillors to decide in 2009 that they would cut off the corporation's access to further loans.
Stephenville's airport has what its website calls "one of the best landing strips in Atlantic Canada, and certainly the best in Newfoundland and Labrador." It's a legacy from a former U.S. Air Force Base in the community.