North Bay Mayor was surprised by news that Air Canada is pulling out

The mayor of North Bay says he was shocked to learn that Air Canada is pulling out out of the Jack Garland Airport. The company announced it will suspend 30 domestic regional routes indefinitely, and close eight stations at regional airports across Canada, including North Bay and Kingston, in Ontario.

Al McDonald says no warning from company before reading news in media advisory

Air Canada is suspending 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight stations at regional airports due to a drop in demand for air travel as a result of COVID-19. All eight stations are operated by Jazz Aviation, a partner of Air Canada. (Radio-Canada)

The mayor of North Bay says he was shocked to learn that Air Canada is pulling out of his city.

Air Canada announced on Tuesday that it will suspend 30 domestic regional routes indefinitely, and close eight stations at regional airports across Canada.

One of those affected airports is the Jack Garland Airport in North Bay.

The Jack Garland Airport employs 300 people and last year served 77,000 travellers. It's used by mining companies and businesses for both domestic and international air travel.

North Bay mayor Al McDonald held a virtual news conference late Tuesday afternoon to comment on the Air Canada news and discuss what the city plans to do. (CBC)

"We weren't pre-warned," mayor Al McDonald told a handful of local media during a virtual news conference late Tuesday afternoon.

"We heard the news the first time, the same time you did — through a media advisory that went out."

McDonald says he understood and accepted the suspension of air service this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Until travel picks up we knew that there were going to be some difficulties, but as a city we were prepared to wait it out." he said.

Earlier this spring, the City of North Bay agreed to help the airport stay afloat until the travel industry picked up.

McDonald says that's because the city is an economic centre.

"We have over 65 mining companies and so many businesses that depend on our airport to get back and forth, to get expertise; professionals — they need to travel for business," he said.

"That airport and that airline was critical to them being here in our community. That really showed three and a half months ago when council said 'We will fund the airport.'"

That financial promise hasn't yet come to fruition, but is available to pay for salaries and operations at the airport until the end of December.

"It is critical that the airport remain open," McDonald said.

"I am in support of keeping the airport open." 

McDonald said the fight to keep the airport in North Bay from closing will be a community effort.

"Not only with the three levels of government, but the business community as well, to say 'We need this airport.'"

30 cities 'pawns' in bailout chess game

There had been discussions about the Canadian aviation industry seeking a bailout from the federal government, but that hasn't happened yet.

McDonald calls it a chess game where the 30 affected cities are pawns, while Air Canada (airline industry) and the federal government are the kings.

"We recognise that the federal government and Air Canada and the airlines need to come together, but we can't be left behind as a city," he said.

If bailout discussions take a more definite form, McDonald says the recently affected communities should be consulted and supported.

"The 30 cities depend on airports for economic development, for jobs," he said.

"That airport is key for us, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure there is passenger service at our airport when the demand comes back."

McDonald adds that if the airline industry requests assistance from the federal government he wants the recently affected cities to join the call for support.

"The small cities — the 30 cities that are being affected — we need the government support."


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