New Ottawa airport rules could cost Nunavut millions

Transport Canada wants upgraded services at Canada’s smaller airports — but isn’t offering any money to help provinces and territories.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Strict new airport safety rules proposed by the federal government could cost the Nunavut government millions, a territorial bureaucrat says.

If implemented, proposed new Transport Canada regulations would force 123 of Canada’s smaller airports — including 26 in Nunavut — to reinstate onsite emergency rescue services to fight fires.

Preliminary government estimates suggest it would cost about $13 million to pay for the necessary fire trucks or other equipment at Nunavut’s airports, said Mike Ferris, deputy minister of transportation.

Ottawa won’t pay

The federal government, to date, has said it will not foot the bill, Ferris said.

“They’re going to pass the regulation and then it would be the provinces or the territorial jurisdictions that would end up paying the costs. That’s why the provinces and territories are concerned,” Ferris said.

The Nunavut government is preparing to bring back fire trucks at Iqaluit’s airport. It has budgeted $1.3 million for the service.

But if the new regulations go through, the Nunavut government, will have to pay much more for ibeefed up safety measures at other airports. The territory along with the provinces, is negotiating the terms of the regulations with the feds, said Ferris.

Airports in some smaller communities are already well served by volunteer fire departments, Ferris said.

“We see it as a problem for our small jurisdictions, simply because we have volunteer fire departments in the North that are very capable,” Ferris said.

Ferris cited Grise Fiord as an example of a community that is already well served by its volunteer fire department.

All provincial and territorial governments are questioning the proposed regulation for that reason, Ferris said.

At federal-provincial meeting in May, Transportation Minister Jack Anawak and other provincial ministers voiced concerns about creating tougher regulations when no new money will be made available to comply with them.

Ferris expects the issue will be back on the agenda at the next deputy ministers’ meeting in the fall.

If it’s given the go ahead, the regulation would require airports to have fire crews close enough to respond to an emergency within 10 minutes.

Iqaluit ERS re-instated

The Nunavut government has decided Iqaluit’s airport needs its own emergency rescue service immediately. Iqaluit lost its onsite fire trucks about five years ago when the federal government transferred responsibility to municipalities and territories.

Today’s high traffic at the Iqaluit airport and the town’s status as a capital city makes it necessary to reinstate service, Ferris said.

The Nunavut government has already set aside money for the service in its 1999-2000 budget. The government may also increase the landing fees at Iqaluit to recover some of its costs.

The department will begin advertising for firefighters soon, and new equipment will be arriving on the last sealift. The special fire department will only be used by the airport and may have up to eight firefighters.

The territorial government may later decide to increase emergency services at other Nunavut airports if it gets financial support from the federal government, Ferris said.

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