​Improvements to Canada's outdated northern airports overdue, auditor says

Canada's top accountant is calling on the federal government to kickstart much-needed improvements to airports in Canada's remote North.

Flickering runway lights, outdated navigation systems documented but not fixed

The airport in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, in 2015. The auditor general says Transport Canada has failed to take the lead in fixing problems and making necessary upgrades at remote northern airports. (Phil Conroy/Flickr)

Canada's top accountant is calling on the federal government to kickstart much-needed improvements to airports in Canada's remote North.

In his spring report to Parliament, auditor general Michael Ferguson says the government is well aware of deficiencies at the airports, including flickering runway lighting and outdated navigation systems.

But he says Transport Canada has failed to take the lead in fixing the problems and making necessary upgrades.

Many northern communities rely on air transportation as their only means of getting fresh food, medicine and other supplies.

The airport in Colville Lake, N.W.T., pop. 149, in May of 2017.

$101M in upgrades needed

While Transport Canada's Airports Capital Assistance Program has an annual budget of $38 million available for airport safety-related projects, auditors say only about $15 million was spent on remote northern airports over the past three years.

Their report identified $101 million in needed upgrades at 41 of the 117 remote airports they examined.

"Transport Canada had the information it needed to assess the infrastructure challenges remote northern airports face," the report concluded.

"However, the department did not take the lead by working with others to address these infrastructure challenges."

Transport Canada announced late last year that it would step up transportation infrastructure spending in the North.

But the auditor general says the department has yet to provide details of planned projects.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?