A petition has been launched by the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, calling for the federal government to provide financial support to ensure air travel on the island continues in 2021.
On Dec. 8, Air Canada announced it would be suspending all flights to and from the Sydney Airport starting on Jan. 11 as a result of declining passenger demand.
Kathleen Yurchesyn, the CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, says the impacts of the decision from Air Canada will be far-reaching.
“The pandemic is one thing, but not being able to get here and experience our island from across the world is going to have incredibly negative impacts on our tourism sector,” said Yurchesyn.
“This has incredibly negative effects on our entire region, on our economy, and on our future of survival.”
Yurchesyn says the chamber has been working in collaboration with the Cape Breton Partnership, Cape Breton University, Destination Cape Breton, the Mayor’s Office of the CBRM, and Membertou First Nations to create a video plea to the prime minister to provide targeted financial support to J.A. Douglas McCurdy Airport.
The petition went live on Monday, and by the end of the evening garnered over 950 signatures. By Tuesday, it collected nearly 1,000 more, with support from across the country.
“As of Jan. 11, we have no way of getting (to Cape Breton) unless we fly into Halifax and then you drive five hours. Totally unacceptable,” Yurchesyn continued.
“We hope that this decision and this problem is reversed and a solution is found in the very near term.”
Air Canada making more cuts across Atlantic Canada
The Atlantic Canada Airports Association says the immediate support for the petition speaks to the importance of the airport to those living on the island.
“Cape Bretoners, in general, feel they need an airport and they need that connectivity. We want our island to thrive, and we want to see immigration here, and we want business to thrive,” said Monettte Pasher, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association.
“I think people know that without an airport and without connectivity, you can’t really have an economy in the 21st century.”
Air Canada is also suspending flights in Saint John. In a statement to Global News, Derrick Stanford with the Saint John Airport says they’ve had great support from the City with letters to Transportation Minister Marc Garneau and Premier Blaine Higgs.
“While we are very disappointed with Air Canada’s decision, the stark reality is; there are less than 200 air passengers per day in New Brunswick,” said Stanford.
“This is down from an average of almost 3,800. Strict provincial entrance criteria combined with 14-day isolations constrict who can travel into New Brunswick thus limiting the potential amount of those who can use our airports in New Brunswick.”
Stanford, as well as Johanne Gallant of the Fredericton International Airport, feel a federal support package is the best way forward.
“Most airports in Atlantic Canada have seen minus 90 per cent down in passenger compared to last year, so the airline industry are losing millions per day,” said Gallant.
As for the petition, Yurchesyn says the chamber is still awaiting a response from the Prime Minister’s Office.
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