QUEEN’S PARK — Sol Mamakwa, MPP for Kiiwetinoong and Deputy Leader for Ontario’s NDP, is calling on the provincial government to invest in long overdue improvements at Ontario’s 27 far northern airports.
“For the 27 Ontario First Nations that are air access only, the province’s far northern airports are lifelines to essential services such as health care, education, groceries, mail and policing,” said Mamakwa. “We would never say it is safe to drive a car, bus or truck on a gravel road at 160 kilometres per hour, yet every day planes are landing under these conditions at Ontario’s far northern airports.”
Ontario’s far northern airports have gravel runways as short as 3,500 feet. In Kingfisher Lake, people have been relying on the same gravel runway that was built more than three decades ago in 1987.
“Ontario’s investments in the province’s far northern airports have not kept up with the need,” said Mamakwa. “Improvements are long overdue.
“We can improve the quality of life in the 27 Ontario First Nations that count on far northern airports by extending and paving the runways,” said Mamakwa. “I am calling on the provincial government to make the investments needed to do this, as well as to improve navigational technology, increase staffing, and to upgrade the terminal buildings.”
Mamakwa said improvements at remote northern airports should include:
- Increased staffing levels to times outside of normal business hours
- Inclusion of reasonable on-call and overtime provisions in staff work arrangements
- Northern airport staff are underpaid, overworked, and carry a great deal of responsibility in ensuring the airport is always ready to receive flights and their compensation should reflect the essential role they play.
- Improved Navigational Aids - Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance (LPV) approaches would provide pilots with more situational awareness in the aircraft, allow for lower decision heights and therefore reduce the number of missed approaches and improve overall safety (which means saving lives when a Medevac is trying to evacuate someone in medical distress)
- NAV Canada has received funding through the National Trade Corridor Fund to implement LPV approaches at all 27 remote airports serving Ontario’s far north, but the MTO must recertify these runways to fully utilize the LPV approaches
- Improvements to runways & terminal buildings including:
- Paved, larger runways that can accommodate newer, larger, more fuel-efficient aircraft
- Guaranteed de-icing service at all 27 airports. (Limited de-icing equipment is available at airports and is not guaranteed; aircraft often carry their own de-icing fluid on board, and equipment to apply the product is limited.)
- Addressing terminal buildings that are aging, deteriorated. (Some buildings lack secondary washrooms and running hot water, some do not have potable water on site, and some are lacking functioning septic systems.)
- Addressing terminal buildings that do not have designated areas for medical patients being Medevac’d out of the community
- Addressing terminal buildings that do not have space to safely separate incoming and outgoing passengers, which has posed an increased risk of transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic