Gander wants to put pressure on federal, provincial government regarding airport troubles

·3 min read

The Town of Gander wants to hear from you.

More precisely, the central Newfoundland town wants to hear from people around the region about their connection to the Gander International Airport and its importance to how they live or conduct business.

Last week, Air Canada announced it will drop its remaining flights out of the Gander International Airport, along with flights out of Labrador and some out of St. John’s.

The announcement followed the announcement of two previously cancelled routes last summer.

The most recent cancelled flights are scheduled to end on Jan. 23.

“This is a critical issue,” said Gander Mayor Percy Farwell. “The inability to get in and out of the area … has a great impact on your success.”

With that in mind, the town is asking people in the region to submit their stories about how important the airport is to their lives and their families.

The town hopes that putting human faces on the issue will put further pressure on the federal and provincial governments to quickly come up with a solution to the problem.

“These impacts are personal,” said Farwell, noting the closure will affect several sectors. “People should be telling their stories, and governments need to be aware of it.”

In a news release Tuesday, the town said Canada is the only G7 country that has failed to recognize the importance of air links and connectivity. The federal government has yet to offer federal aid to the airline sector.

Businesses and health care will also be affected by the decision.

‘’As you can see, all sectors of business are affected by this suspension of services, causing major concerns for our chamber and the business communities we represent,” Sheldon Handcock, chair of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a prepared statement. “We urge the federal government to provide support and a fair deal to the struggling national airlines.”

While it may be a while before the effects are felt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the areas that will get squeezed by the lack of air travel to central Newfoundland is the tourism industry.

The Gander airport represents a critical link between those businesses and their customers. People can’t make plans to visit the province if there is no access to a great deal of it.

“We need flights in and out of this province,” said Deborah Bourden, the co-owner of the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites in Twillingate. “What is the good to have people who want to come here if they can’t get here.

“That is absolutely critical to our industry.”

Farwell said the effort to collect testimonials is just the first step of a larger communication effort being undertaken in the central region of the province.

That will involve a small number of stakeholders in the region and allow them to co-ordinate a collective message.

Farwell also said it will be an issue raised when political hopefuls make their way to Gander on the campaign trail in the coming days and weeks.

“There are a lot of factors to be considered,” he said. “It's all about co-ordinated advocacy.”

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice