After closing for one of the first times in its history due to repeated heavy snowfalls this winter, the Niagara-on-the-Lake District Airport is getting $1.6 million from the federal government to help purchase a snowplow, blower, loader and a runway sweeper.
“Having this equipment is absolutely critical,” airport chair Robin Garrett said at an airport gathering last week for the funding announcement.
She noted the heavy snowfalls this winter presented obstacles for the airport.
“It was 55 centimetres of snow we had to clear one day and I believe staff were up all night. It was one of the first times we had to close the airport,” she said.
But the money does more than help the airport purchase up-to-date equipment. It also enables its resources to be allocated toward other projects.
“It allows us to spend the time we need and the resources on growing the airport,” Garrett said.
“Staff have been spending a lot of time and effort and resources maintaining old equipment. It’s time-consuming and it’s expensive. This equipment will free up the time to spend attracting new business.”
Federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra, St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle and Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey were at the airport to discuss the investment on Thursday.
“Every sector of our economy has suffered during COVID-19,” Alghabra said in response to a question from The Lake Report.
“The aviation sector has suffered significantly. Our government understood that and also understood the importance the aviation sector plays in all of its components: airports, airlines, workers and all the businesses that supply those entities,” he said.
“We stepped up and provided support.”
Alghabra said the federal government has provided $11 billion of financial relief for the industry throughout the pandemic in the form of loans and grants.
“The funding I’ve just announced will help ensure that this airport can continue to provide safe, reliable and efficient travel options” and “help Canada work toward economic recovery and travel restart as the pandemic eases.”
“I feel very optimistic now, as we are turning the corner from COVID-19, to see a greater sense of enthusiasm and energy in the sector,” he said.
Garrett said the choice of equipment was limited due to the grant the airport applied for, which was for safety investment only. The investment is great news for the airport, she said.
“It’s one of our most important needs at this time, so that works very well and we’ve received everything we needed,” Garret said.
But she was sure to let the politicians present know aid is always welcome.
“More is good,” Garret said, eliciting laughs from the political assembly. “We have other needs.”
Garrett said the airport is already tendering for the purchase of the equipment.