A federal government minister stopped by Prince Albert’s airport to see some of its new safety enhancements on Thursday.
Airport Manager Corey Nygaard gave Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, and Prince Albert Deputy Mayor Don Cody the tour. Wilkinson attended on behalf of Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.
According to Nygaard, the airport may be small, but it’s crucial for a number of reasons—for transporting necessities to northern Saskatchewan and allowing uranium and gold mining workers to swiftly move from place to place.
He said many don’t even realize the city has an airport because of Saskatoon’s demand and capacity to transport people to popular tourist destinations.
“What we really concentrate on or what we’ve been doing is servicing the north, so it’s a jumping off point to the north,” said Nygaard.
“Routes to more popular destinations than Saskatoon alone is not a simple thing. You need enough demand to make those routes viable and that’s being worked on.”
The federal government recently provided over $1 million in funding for four projects through Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP).
These projects are a new runway snowblower, a runway condition reporting system and friction tester, a grader replacement and the construction of a sand shed.
Nygaard explained that the specialized sand comes from Alberta and needs to be stored in a warm and dry environment. The shed also houses their other deicers.
The runway condition reporting system is a screen in the airport’s inspection vehicle.
Wilkinson is the MP for North Vancouver, but is originally from Saskatoon.
“(The tour) probably has actually more meaning for me than for many because it feels just like coming home and I understand I think how important these kinds of facilities are for mid-sized communities like Prince Albert,” he said.
“These are the kinds of investments that actually allow mid-sized communities to actually function and grow and I think this is exactly what the federal government should be doing in terms of trying to ensure that we’re building a better Canada, not just for the big cities.”
ACAP’s mandate is to invest in such infrastructure projects for the safety of travelling Canadians.
The city is working to drive more economy through the airport by establishing a committee, as Cody mentioned speaking to media after the tour.
“It’ll just be kind of an advisory body that will look at what opportunities are there,” he said. “We think more things can be done here and we think there’s possibly more opportunities for tourism.”
He said he’s appreciative of Transport Canada’s support over the last number of years because it invests in not just Prince Albert, but also the province’s northern communities.
In 2012, the federal government invested nearly $6 million to repave the runway.
Another ongoing project at the airport is replacing the lights on the runway and upgrading its operating system. Nygaard said they’ll likely start replacing the lights with an LED system in mid-September, and the control system will be a touchscreen instead of the old push buttons.
Garneau commented on the federal investments in the airport in a media release.
“In addition to supporting travel and tourism, local airports are key connectors for business, health care, social services, and emerging resource development sectors. These investments will improve access to safe, efficient and accessible air transportation options, and will help us deliver on our promise to build safer, healthier and stronger communities across Canada.”