Yukon airport fees won't fly, says Air North president

The Public Airports Act would oversee Yukon's airports. The Yukon government said it had consulted industry widely over the summer - but Air North president Joe Sparling says more is needed.

Draft legislation would give Yukon gov't power to bring in airport improvement fee

The president of Air North says his company has worked hard to make air travel more affordable and he's opposed to an airport improvement fee. (Air North)

The president of Air North says draft legislation that would allow the Yukon government to charge an airport improvement fee would be disastrous for the industry.

"We didn't see the document at the time of the briefing, and after having had a chance to look at the actual document, it's raised some concerns," said Joe Sparling.

'Now is not the time for the government to be sticking their hands in travellers' pockets,' says Air North president Joe Sparling. (CBC)

The Yukon government introduced Bill 6 on Oct. 4. The Public Airports Act is designed to oversee the territory's airports.

Sparling says there wasn't enough consultation with the industry over the summer. 

Chief among his concerns is the clause that addresses "fees, rates and charges for the use of public airports and for the use of services at public airports."

The opposition Yukon Party says the clause suggests new fees may be on the horizon, though the Yukon government has denied that.

Sparling says anything that increases costs for travellers — like an airport improvement fee (AIF) — will hurt Yukon's aviation companies.

"I'd like to see that clause gone for sure," he said.

"I am absolutely and completely opposed to the implementation of an AIF in the Yukon, or in Whitehorse. Anything in there that gives the government to do that without a ton more consultation, I absolutely object to. I think it's the worst thing in the world they could do."

An airport improvement fee is a common charge at most Canadian airports, however, Yukon's Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn said in the legislature on Tuesday that his government has "no plans to introduce an airport improvement fee."

'Fine-tune the thing if necessary'

Sparling says his company has worked hard to make air travel more affordable.

"Now is not the time for the government to be sticking their hands in travellers' pockets," he said.

Sparling admits there was some consultation on Bill 6, but not nearly enough.

"Let's talk about industry's concerns before it goes any further," he said. "Let's ... get the concerns on the table and fine-tune the thing if necessary."

Sparling also has a dim view of the government of the Northwest Territories' decision this year to introduce new airport fees. He predicts the move will backfire. 

"I absolutely not do not agree with following anything [the] GNWT has done. I think what they're doing is going to prove a disaster for them." 

Yukon's Bill 6 is currently in first reading.

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