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Transport Canada eyes transferring Inner Harbour 'airport' to the City of Victoria

Harbour users worry about costs of Transport Canada passing responsibility of Inner Harbour to local authority.

Victoria's primary seaplane operator believes Transport Canada shouldn't give up control of the Inner Harbour airport to a local port authority or the City of Victoria.

Yesterday, Victoria city council discussed an offer from Transport Canada to engage in "informal" discussions about ownership and operation of the Victoria Harbour airport. The waterway is one of only 18 airports and the only water aerodrome in Canada still under direct federal ownership.

"(The Inner Harbour) works like a Swiss watch," said Randy Wright, Harbour Air Seaplanes vice president. "This particular airport is not an asphalt runway. We have ferries, boats, whale watching, all sort of things going on in this harbour. … There are too many agendas for an authority to come in. The costs are already too high, and who's going to bear those added costs?"

Transport Canada spokeswoman Jillian Glover stressed discussions with the city are only exploratory in nature, and any agreements would be subject to public process.

"Transport Canada would like to determine, through this informal discussion process, whether it is still the most appropriate entity to own and operate these airports, as recent experience has shown that local interests may be better-suited to address the needs of the users," Glover said.

Acting mayor Pam Madoff said councillors chose to move the letter to a public agenda after receiving it in camera last month.

We've not met or talked with Transport Canada," Madoff said before the meeting. "We've simply talked about process. I expect there will be lots of questions coming from council."

Coun. Ben Isitt said the discussion represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take responsibility for the harbour airport.

"If done right, landing fees from aircraft movements can generate revenues for communities, providing financial benefits alongside the benefit of accountable local control of transportation systems."

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