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Let's look at airport lease and get more money for the city, Collins says

It’s been 20 years since the city signed an agreement with TradePort to run the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

The passenger numbers aren't good enough, says Chad Collins. So it's time to reexamine the deal

Dean Dacko from NewLeaf announces new passenger service from the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in January. Overall passenger flight numbers have fallen short of estimates made in 1996, when TradePort took over operation of the airport. One city councillor says it's time to look at the lease agreement again. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It's been 20 years since the city signed an agreement with TradePort to run the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. 

Now one city councillor says it's time to reopen that lease to see if Hamilton taxpayers can benefit more from it.

Chad Collins, a Ward 5 councillor, says the 40-year agreement between the city and Tradeport allows it to be reexamined three times. The first of those is in 2016.

And while he doubts the lease can actually be terminated, there are terms he'd like to renegotiate to make sure the city is getting as much money as it should in the cost-sharing agreement.

From my perspective, it's about the passenger part of it.- Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor

TradePort made big promises in terms of passenger numbers in 1996, Collins said. It promised a million passenger flights per year by 2010, but its year-over-year numbers fall well short of that. While cargo traffic has increased, Collins said the missed passenger target changes things.

Collins will introduce a motion in two weeks asking "basically, that we reopen the contract and we investigate ways to improve it from a financial perspective, and even from an operational perspective."

The lease promised that TradePort would make several capital improvements in the first 20 years, and most of them have happened, Collins said.

"From my perspective, it's about the passenger part of it," he said. "If they've fallen short on the passenger side of things, what opportunity exists to increase the city's revenue?"

Collins will give a heads up about his motion at Wednesday's general issues committee, and it will likely be debated at the same committee two weeks from now.

Collins first broached the idea of examining the lease in 2013, when he cited disappointing revenue and too few passenger flights.

"It was probably a year-long process to iron out exactly how the airport would be operated, (and) what investments they would make over a 40-year period," he said then.

"We're receiving on average maybe $100,000 a year and we expected a lot more than that when we first signed the deal."

Meanwhile, the airport's cargo traffic increases year over year while the passenger numbers dip.

CBC Hamilton is attempting to contact TradePort.

However, airport numbers show that in 2014, the airport saw an eight per cent increase in cargo traffic, but only 332,378 passengers compared to 341,470 the year before. Passenger numbers have decreased by 100,000 since 2009.

The airport hopes that improves with New Leaf, a low-cost airline that will offer flights from Hamilton.

WestJet has also announced plans to fly from Hamilton to Vancouver three times a week this summer.

Air Canada has also announced direct flights from Hamilton to Montreal.