Nova Scotia

Port Hawkesbury mayor unconcerned about airport ownership dispute

The company that operates the Town of Port Hawkesbury's airport is in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia over an ownership dispute, but Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says she doesn't have any immediate concerns about the airport lease or operations.

Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says she's more concerned about airport's drop in revenue because of pandemic

The company that operates the Town of Port Hawkesbury's airport is in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia over an ownership dispute. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The company that operates the Town of Port Hawkesbury's airport is in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia over an ownership dispute, but Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says she doesn't have any immediate concerns about the airport lease or operations.

"I can't really speak to the contract at this point, but I guess we'll have to wait and see how things play out with regard to the legal dispute that's ongoing currently," she said in an interview last week.

Dave Morgan, founder of Celtic Air, the company hired to run the Allan J. MacEachen Port Hawkesbury Airport, says in court documents that recent investor Chris Neville of Sydney is mounting a hostile takeover of another of Morgan's companies, AxAir, and that is placing Celtic Air in jeopardy.

The two are back in court April 14, but it is not known when the matter will be settled.

Chisholm-Beaton said she was more concerned about the airport's drastic drop in revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2018-19, the last full fiscal year before the pandemic, the airport took in $142,000 and generated a surplus of about $108,000 before depreciation and annual municipal contributions.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says she doesn't have any immediate concerns about the airport lease or operations. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The next fiscal year, which included the early days of the pandemic, airport revenues fell to $95,000 and the surplus was about $14,000.

In 2020-21, the last year for which financial information is available, the airport took in $26,000 and ran a deficit of $54,000.

"Despite these significant challenges, the Allan J. MacEachen regional airport has remained open for the past two years and it certainly was needed," Chisholm-Beaton said.

The airport receives annual contributions of $15,000 each from the town of Port Hawkesbury and Inverness and Richmond counties as a "critical" asset that complements the railway and highways that lead to the Strait region, she said.

The airport's future over the long term was discussed last month during a strategic planning session with various municipal partners, Chisholm-Beaton said.

Dave Morgan is the president of Celtic Air Services. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"We've always been ready to adjust and change as circumstances dictate, so strategies to continue to grow and improve the airport will evolve as opportunities present themselves," she said.

The current operator is halfway through a 10-year lease and, while it does not include an automatic review, Chisholm-Beaton said she is keeping an eye on the court case.

In the meantime, tourism is expected to rebound significantly this year, which should improve the airport's immediate financial picture, the mayor said.

"All that pent-up demand from over the past two years because of COVID and the global pandemic, I believe, is going to result in a very big year for private and charter flight landings at our airport this spring, summer and fall," Chisholm-Beaton said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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